o The Frog Blog: April 2012

Saturday, 28 April 2012

YouTube Saturday - Where Did The Moon Come From?

Today's featured video comes from space scientist and lunar fanatic Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock as she explores our intimate relationship with the Moon and how it was created. The debris from a huge collision of another planet on Earth formed what is now our moon, 14,000 miles from Earth, the closest it has ever been.

Friday, 27 April 2012

HAPPY Times at Science Gallery


Science Gallery's newest exhibition, HAPPY,  opens today, continuing their ambitious and stimulating programme for Dublin City of Science 2012. The gallery's exhibition space will be transformed in to a working lab during the next five weeks, featuring a series of unique exhibits / experiments, exploring your happiness from the TCD School of Psychology. Over the next month or so, visitors will become test subjects, exploring the causes, correlations and consequences of happiness "through a living psychological laboratory". 

Amongst the exhibits are "A Good Looking Laugh" - a computer based experiment testing what turns us on, "A Matter of Pride" will explore just what is means to be Irish and if our national identity contributes to our sense of satisfaction, "Fair's Fair" aims to find out if our mood can change the meaning of a word and "Working it Out" will ask visitors to video their positive meanings of their work. Of course there is loads more too! 

Of course, the busy Science Gallery team also have a great range of activities coming up during the coming weeks to compliment the exhibition. As part of their SFI Speaker Series, the curators of HAPPY?, Ian Robertson and Malcolm Mac Lachlan, will talk about their work in the field of psychology, the experiments they are leading in the current exhibition, and the science of happiness. On May 4th, Rob Ince comes to town, giving his "Happiness Through Science" lecture - fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! And also, on May 9th, join the Newstalk Science team for the first of the 'Future Proof at the Movies' series, where geneticist Kevin Mitchell will host a Q&A session on the brilliant sci-fi movie GATTACA (personally one of my favourite movies). And if that's not enough for you, join Professor Adrian Furnham (of University College London) speaking about ‘Happiness and Emotional Intelligence’ on May 16th. Visit the Science Gallery events page for the full programme of events for HAPPY.

It looks like May is going to be another brilliant month at Science Gallery!

Image: Science Gallery

Delhi Belly, Here in Ireland!


Cryptosporidium parvum, a single-celled animal, i.e., protozoa, is an obligate intracellular parasite. It has been given additional species names when isolated from different hosts. It is currently thought that the form infecting humans is the same species that causes disease in young calves. Cryptosporidium infects many herd animals (cows, goats, and sheep among domesticated animals). The infective stage of the organism, the oocyst is about half the size of a red blood cell. The sporocysts are resistant to most chemical disinfectants, but are susceptible to drying and the ultraviolet portion of sunlight. Some strains appear to be adapted to certain hosts but cross-strain infectivity occurs and may or may not be associated with illness. 

Cryptosporidium is a highly infectious and potentially dangerous parasite, especially when confronted by a weak immune system. When it attaches to the lining of the small bowel, it then multiplies over and over again and attacks the intestine, as a response the body tries to flush it out, this reaction causes diarrhoea. While some is washed away the rest is multiplied, lining the stomach walls. By lining the stomach walls, Cryptosporidium prevents the body from absorbing nutrients out of the body, eventually causes malnutrition and death. 

Part of the reason Cryptosporidium is so successful at attacking humans, is because it has a great strategy, it uses water to get to its host, by using water Cryptosporidium is able to affect large populations very quickly, and it is able to spread over large geographical areas. Chlorine kills most stuff in the water, but not even chlorine kills this nasty protozoan. Cryptosporidium has a protected coating which allows it to withstand chlorine based cleaning systems. Ozone treatment reduces the amount of Cryptosporidium in drinking water, but it does not remove all of it. On average there are ten parasites in every 10 gallons of drinking water in Ireland. This concentration rarely causes illness. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Five Stars for the ISTA Conference!


It's taken me a while to get around to this - sorry! The 50th annual Irish Science Teachers Association conference took place in Trinity College Dublin at the weekend and was universally accepted as a triumphant success. The quality of the lectures / speakers that I attended was exceptional, with others also returned nothing but good reports from those that I sadly missed. The event opened on Friday evening in the Science Gallery (getting a sneak peak of some of the HAPPY exhibits), where some of the biggest names in Irish science assembled. As well as the formal opening to the event we were treated to a stimulating introduction to nanotechnology by the head of CRANN, Prof. John Boland. Afterwards, casual drinks and nibbles were shared amongst the one hundred or so guests. I did have time to squeeze in a quick chat with Sylvia Leatham from the Scibernia crew so look out for that shortly!

Saturday was jam packed full of excellent lectures, practical courses (including one on DNA profiling which I sadly missed - D'Oh) and exhibition stands. I attended five excellent talks that day - Luke O'Neill spoke excellently on why we do science, the excellent Paul McCrory inspired me to bring more personality in to my lessons (and fed me marshmallows), the personable and talented Alom Shaha gave a rousing talk on the meaning of science and science education and everyone was enthralled by Aoife McLysaght's wonderful presentation on the last fifty years of genetic research. The plenary lecture was from BBC's Dr. Michael Mosley, a talented, genuine and unassuming character. He spoke about his journey in the BBC and on how he feels science programming needs to be delivered (It was such a pity no one from RTÉ was there - they would have learnt a lot!). His talk shared many themes with that of Paul McCrory's earlier - particular on the need to create an emotional response in your audience (be that 10 million BBC viewers or 24 students in a classroom). We can learn a lot from how Michael and his BBC colleagues communicate science - taking a topic, telling a story around the topic and gently inserting the science in to the story. That evening we all enjoyed a lovely meal at the conference dinner in the Alexander Hotel before Crana College were annouced as the winners of the ISTA Pharmachemical Ireland Teacher Awards 2012 (St. Columba's named as runners up).

On Sunday morning, 15 brave souls took part in Mary Mulvihill's Ingenious Ireland science tour of Dublin, while other arrived at the Old Chemistry Building for the final two lectures of the conference. I was delighted to be given the opportunity to close the conference and was equally delighted with the very high turn-out for my presentation on iPad Apps in the Science Classroom. If you missed it - no worries - here are the 20 apps I featured in the talk.

Finally I would like to thank Mary Mullaghy and her team from the Dublin Branch of the ISTA. They planned an ambitious event to mark the organisation's 50th anniversary and their hard work was rewarded no end. I'm looking forward to next year's conference in Wexford already!

TED-Ed Beta Website Launches - WOW!

The long awaited TED-Ed website has launched, promising to help teachers get the most out of video in their lessons. The wonderful website, currently in its Beta form, provides an innovative and structured approach to using video in the classroom. The website is based around providing excellent curated educational videos, created by collaborations between teachers and animators, and in providing a structured lesson around them- which includes quizzes, extra materials and big questions! The new platform will also allows users to take any useful educational video, not just TED's but from YouTube perhaps, and easily create a customized lesson around the video. Users can distribute the lessons, publicly or privately, and track their impact on the world, a class, or an individual student. It's genius! The video below actually explains things better than I could (showing the power of video, perhaps!)



The Beta version of the website currently has 62 curated videos, from a range of curricular areas, on their system with 670 "flips" or personalised lessons based on those videos. One of my favourites is this short video on "just how small is an atom?", a tricky concept for some kids which is presented in simple terms in this excellent animation. Of course, TED-Ed also provides you with a quiz and other learning tools to effectively use the video in class. There is also the the option to "flip the lesson" and edit it to suit your own class. It is such a brilliant idea but more importantly TED, having taken their time developing this, have created a portal that teachers will feel comfortable using. I'm looking forward to getting involved! Visit TED-Ed now!
 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

ISTA Conference - 20 iPad Apps for Science Teachers


A special welcome to those directed here from my presentation at the Irish Science Teachers Association (ISTA) Conference in the Old Chemistry Building of Trinity College Dublin. For those of you not attending, today I am giving a presentation at the conference on the use of iPad applications in the science classroom - outlining the 20 apps that you may find useful. Some of the these apps are specifically science focused, others are aimed at teachers and students while some apps are simply brilliant and deserve a mention. I'm cheating a little too, knowing that many of you don't have iPads. So I've sneaked a few apps below which have associated websites or can be used on iPhones, PC's or MACs. Below is short description and the links to the iTunes Store for each of the apps I featured in today's talk. The majority of the apps featured today are free.
  1. Prezi Viewer - An exciting presentation tool, Prezi can help end "death by PowerPoint". (FREE)
  2. Pocket Body - An Irish app, exploring the muscular system of the human body. (€23.99)
  3. Pocket Heart - An interactive human heart, again Irish made. (€5.99)
  4. Stellarium XL - An extremely powerful virtual planetarium. A stunning app. (FREE)
  5. Elementals - A cute introduction to the Periodic Table - perfect for the little 'uns. (FREE)
  6. Physical Science Glossary - An interactive glossary containing loads of animations, videos on matter, energy and change. (FREE)
  7. Virtual Heart - A simple app to explore the internal structure of the heart and heart beat. (FREE)
  8. Xperica HD - An interactive virtual lab, this excellent app can be used to introduce some practical physics experiments. (FREE)
  9. Dropbox - A must have app. It's a memory stick you don't have to carry around with you! Visit www.dropbox.com to open your free account! (FREE)
  10. QuickOffice (€15.99) - Produce and edit Microsoft Office Word, Excel & PowerPoint files. Links with Dropbox & Google Docs.(FREE)
  11. Scan - One of a number of QR Code reading apps, allowing you get to a website quickly without having to insert the url. (FREE)
  12. Rat Dissection - Does exactly what it says on the tin - an interactive rat dissection! Wonderful. (€2.99)
  13. Pocket Universe - This excellent app is wonderful for exploring the night sky and our solar system.
  14. Human Body - DK - A wonderful app exploring the various body systems(€5.49)
  15. Edmodo - A social network or Facebook for teachers, students and parents. Teachers can create a group for their class, share resources, make online tests, submit homework and partake in polls or discussions. Visit www.edmodo.com to set up a free account, (FREE)
  16. Particle Zoo - A fun list of all the subatomic particles. (FREE)
  17. ShowMe - Turn your iPad in to an interactive whiteboard! (FREE)
  18. Urinogenital System 3D - Explore the urinogenital system in 3D. (€2.39)
  19. Science 360 - Explore a huge library of science images and videos from the excellent Science 360 website. 
  20. The Elements - My favourite app for science - an amazing interactive periodic table, beautiful and powerful. (€10.99)

Saturday, 21 April 2012

YouTube Saturday - Horrible Histories: Charles Darwin's Natural History Song

Here's a fun way to introduce Charles Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection. It's from the wonderfully wacky BBC series 'Horrible Histories' and is an informative and entertaining introduction to one of science's greatest minds. Some might point out a few inaccuracies in the lyrics. Here's how one biology teacher in the UK uses the video in his lessons, asking his students to highlight the good points and the bad points.
 

Friday, 20 April 2012

Toxoplamosis & Its Effects


Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasitic protozoan Toxoplasma gondii (shown above). Cats are the defintive host  but it can also infect humans and other warm blooded animals. It is acquired from contact with cats and their feces or by eating raw meat. When people are infected they are often not aware of it, but typical symptoms are swollen lymph nodes and muscle aches including pain. A healthy immune system usually prevents a second infection. But it can cause severe problems mostly to people who have a weak immune system due to e.g. chemotherapy or HIV/AIDS. Symptoms can be damaging to the eyes, brain or other organs. 

The effects of toxoplasmosis are very interesting. For instance, when a rat's brain gets infected (usually because the rat came in to touch with cat poop) it manipulates its behaviour. The rat does not flee anymore when it smells the urine of a cat because this increases activity in the brain associated with sexual attraction. The rats develop a “love” for cats and due to the loss of fear they are more frequently eaten by cats. 

Another unusual effect is outlined by S. Kankova and her team from the Department of Parasitology, Czech Republic. They discovered that infected women are more likely to give birth to boys than to girls. They tested about 1800 women in private clinics including their age, the concentration of anti-toxoplasm antibodies and the sex of the newborn. The result was that for about every 260 boys, 100 girls were born. Researchers explained the fact that male embryos rather survive due to toxoplasmosis modulating and suppressing effects on the immune system which are different depending on the sex of the embryo. 


Thursday, 19 April 2012

Cured Blind Mice, See How They Run!!


There is new hope today for sufferers of degenerative eye diseases with the news that scientists in the UK have successfully restored the sight of "night blind" mice. Night Blindness or nyctalopia is a condition where sufferers find it difficult to see in low levels of light. The most common cause of night blindness is retinitis pigmentosa, a disorder in which the rod cells in the retina, gradually losing their ability to respond to the light.

The researchers from the University College London successfully injected immature "rod cells" from healthy mice in to the retina of night blind mice. Rod cells are a type of photoreceptor cells in our eyes which detect low levels of light and are almost solely responsible for seeing in the dark. (The other type of photoreceptor cells are called cones are responsible for colour vision in the eye. The scientists have found it difficult to successfully transfer cone cells to the eyes of blind mice.) After a period of four to six weeks a small percentage of the cells had made the connections needed to transmit visual messages to the brain.

To test to see if the experiment had worked, the researchers placed the mice in a dimly lit maze. The "cured" mice were able to find their way to a raised platform, using visual clues, more quickly than the untreated mice.

As mentioned previously, the loss of photoreceptors cells like rods and cones leads to diseases  including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), retinitis pigmentosa and diabetes-related blindness. The scientists believe that the process could be used to treat humans in the coming years but will need to carry out more tests, using photoreceptors cells derived from embryonic stem cells, before starting human trials. However, the results are being seen as one of the most significant breakthroughs in the fight against degenerative eye diseases. Watch this space!

To find out more about how the eye works click here or watch the animated video below. Full details of the study are published in the journal Nature.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize 2012


Do you like telling stories? Can you take a seemingly bland science topic and transform it in to something special - something that leaps from the page or computer screen? Then this is for you.

The Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize returns for 2012, building on the enormous success of last year's competition. The prestigious competition is open to non-published writers in the UK and Ireland who may or may not have a science background. Articles have an 800-word limit and can address any area of science and would be suitable for publication in print or online in the 'Guardian' or the 'Observer'. According to their website, the judges, which include Rob Ince and our very own Liz Bonnin, are looking for "originality, bright ideas and a clear writing style. Your article should show a passion for science and encourage the general public to consider, question and debate the key issues in science and society". Entries are submitted online and you have a week left to enter - the closing date is Wednesday April 25th. For more information on the rules and regulations click here.

There are some nice prizes on offer. The winning articles will be published in the 'Guardian' or the 'Observer' and will also receive a £1000 cash prize. The top 30 shortlisted entrants will also be invited to attend a science writing workshop at the 'Guardian' offices in September 2012. If you're looking for inspiration check out last year's winning entries: Penny Sarchet for her article ‘Death by hypochondria: the nocebo effect’ and  Tess Shellard for her article ‘Bacteria and the power of teamwork’.

The video below might prove useful for prospective applicants. In this excellent video (produced by the Wellcome Trust), veteran science journalist, Tim Radford, tells us the 'three great stories in science' and explains what is, and is not, important when reporting science to the masses.

Share Your Innovative Lessons with O2 Learn


Have you got an innovative lesson that works? Would you like to share that lesson with other teachers and students? Would you be willing to make a short video about your lesson? Would you like to win some cash for your troubles? The O2 Learn Awards are a brilliant initiative which allows teachers share their inventive lessons online with thousands of other teachers and students. They're building a video library of great revision lessons, on a range of subjects, from teachers across the UK to help connect people to great teaching. These curriculum focused mini-lessons can help students catch up on some subjects that they can't remember or might have missed and give teachers new ideas for their own classroom!

The lessons are rated by the students and judged by expert teachers, with cash prizes awarded to the winning teachers. So far, O2 Learn has awarded over £300,000 directly to teachers and schools in the UK. A £1000 is awarded each week to the best lesson uploaded to their website with amazing overall prizes awarded at the end of the year for the three best lessons submitted. Every teacher that submits an entry will received a mobile broadband starter pack - although this is limited to UK teachers? Sadly teachers in the Republic of Ireland are not eligible for the cash prizes.

Their excellent website has all you need to know about submitting your video, with tips on creating your video, designing your lesson and uploaded it to the website. There is also a clever section with requests from students on what they would like to know about! You can also explore the lessons on the system and get some ideas for your classroom! Science teachers might find the following lessons of interest but there are loads of other subjects covered too.
Watch the video below for a little more information and check out O2 Learn now! You can also follow O2 Learn on Twitter.


Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Space Shuttle Discovery Makes Final Journey


The Space Shuttle Discovery has made its final voyage, but sadly not in to space. Travelling atop a specialised jumbo jet, the shuttle was flown from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida to its permanent home at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, but not before making a low level flight around the US capital first. After circling the Washington Monument four times and passing the National Mall over Capitol Hill, the shuttle landed at Dulles Airport, a few miles outside Washington DC. It was then towed to the Smithsonian where it will displayed to the public in the coming months. 

Discovery, which completed 39 orbital missions, is the first of the three retired space shuttles to head to a museum. It takes the place of the shuttle prototype Enterprise at the Smithsonian, which will be moved to New York City. Endeavour will head to Los Angeles later in the year while Atlantis will remain at Kennedy.

GM Potatoes - Are They Safe?


Recently the Irish agricultural research advisory organisation Teagasc applied for a licence to carry out field studies using Genetically Modified (GM) potatoes resistant to potato blight. This has caused many to ask what GM potatoes can do for them and if they can potentially be harmful to our health? 

Ireland has had a long history surrounding blight, amounting in sporadic famines, one of the biggest occurring from 1845-1852. More than one million people died and an additional two million left Ireland. However, this disease is very much still around us, harming over 20 per cent of the 320-million-tonne potato population. 

Blight, or “late blight” is caused by Phytophthora infestans, a fungus-like micro-organism called an oomycete. This causes the potatoes leaves to turn black and withered. Additionally the potato itself turns into a blackish, slimy rotten mass. Traditional plant breeding has gradually lost its effectiveness and caused blight to yet again become growing problem. As a result of this an over-necessary amount of fungicides are being used as a precaution. Potatoes are sprayed weekly with these toxic chemicals to prevent infection. Copper fungicides used by organic farmers are still proving to be a problem as they are incredibly poisonous to animals and humans. Another problem with this is that these copper resistant fungicides cause copper-resistant organisms to thrive; most of these organisms are also resistant to antibiotics, which poses further problems. 

NCCA Senior Science Consultation Report Published



Last year the National Council for Curriculum & Assessment published new draft syllabi for senior cycle Biology, Chemistry & Physics and launched a period of consultation to seek advise from teachers, parents, students, universities and interested bodies on the direction of senior cycle science in Ireland. This involved a series of meetings between the NCCA and organisations like the Irish Science Teachers Association (ISTA), Discover Science & Engineering, Engineers Ireland and the Health & Safety Authority as well as a comprehensive online questionnaire for interested individuals (of which over 500 made submissions online). That consultation process is now closed and the NCCA have published a detailed report on the submissions made

I took particular interest in the new draft syllabi when they were published and attended a very interesting and productive ISTA meeting in Blackrock College back in September, as well as completing the online questionnaires. Personally I felt that there was some good progress made, specifically the "key skills" within all three syllabi and in the new proposed approach to assessment (Sadly, the NCCA didn't publish a sample exam with the new syllabi but later did provide "sample question" - which they had not produced themselves). However, I had some concerns about the knowledge content in the syllabi - which I felt was diluted too much, particularly in biology, and that much of what is current in science isn't included (interestingly, the overall feedback to the NCCA was that the syllabi were actually too long). Below is an extract from that post on my initial views of the syllabi content.
The new physics course finally mentions the word "space" in the syllabus (four times!) yet there is no mention of astronomy nor any compulsory astronomical study. The space section is so short it is likely to be one of the shortest chapters in the new overly priced textbooks that will accompany the syllabus. The word "quantum" does not appear in the physics syllabus. The particle physics option appears to have been removed (except for a brief note on "the operation and applications of particle accelerators") but an introduction to seismology is a welcome sight.
In the new biology syllabus there appears to a further "dumbing down" of biochemical reactions like photosynthesis, respiration and protein synthesis while the addition of some discussion on the ethics of stem cell research is mentioned (the word stem cell is mentioned once in the syllabus), most of the content has merely been tinkered with. The terms "bioinformatics" and "GM organisms" are mentioned, which is admirable, and there is a great focus on gathering and analysing data.
The chemistry syllabus too has merely been tinkered with, when analysed carefully, and I am particularly dismayed by the listed learning outcomes here. Unlike the biology and physics syllabi, the new chemistry syllabus overly uses the terms "define", "state", "explain" and "outline" within their learning outcomes - terms all to often associated and used in examinations. The only real addition I can see in the new syllabus is a short section on forensic science.
The NCCA will now return to the drawing board and look to make changes based on the submissions received. This is likely to focus particularly on how the syllabi will be assessed, the length of the syllabi, their learning outcomes, practical coursework (and its assessment), the use of ICT in the teaching of learning of senior science and on the effective introduction of the syllabi in to secondary schools. When these new courses will be introduced is difficult to say and will depend on the funding available (and probably some union involvement considering the assessment of the practical component). Clearly teachers will also require in-service training on the new courses and new equipment will need to be purchased for some practical investigations. It certainly doubt it will be Sept 2012 or indeed 2013.


The full consultation report can be view online here and you can also view details on individual submissions here

Monday, 16 April 2012

St. Columba's Science Teachers Short-Listed for Award


The science teachers of St. Columba's College have been short-listed for this year's PharmaChemical Ireland Science Teacher Awards, run in conjunction with the Irish Science Teachers Association (ISTA). The team of teachers (Peter Jackson, Mary Singleton, Karen Hennessy, Humphrey Jones, Emma McNelis & Tom de Brit) will now participate in a seminar at the ISTA Annual Conference in Trinity College this coming Saturday on "Encouraging the Uptake of Science Subjects at Second Level", competing with the two other schools short-listed - Crana College, Buncrana, Co. Donegel and Donabate Community College, Dublin. The seminar will be MC'd by Aoibhinn Ní Shuilleabháin. 

The winners will be announced later that evening at the Conference Dinner in the Alexander Hotel. The winning school will receive €1200 for their science department with the  runner up receiving €600.

For information on the St. Columba's Science Department and their work click here.

Scale of the Universe 2


A few months ago we shared with you a brilliant interactive flash video on the Scale of the Universe. Now the 14 year old US twins, Cary & Michael Huang, responsible for the brilliant resource have made further improvements and brought out Scale of the Universe 2. The mind blowing flash animation allows you explore the extraordinary scale of our universe, from quantum foam to the full size of the observable universe, using a simple scroll. The two brother spent over a year designing and building the animation "just for fun" and have created a wonderful resource for teachers, parents, kids, scientists or anyone for that matter! The video below highlights how the application works. Click here, or on the image above, to open Scale of the Universe 2!
 

Dara O'Briain's School of Hard Sums

A new TV show, the 'School of Hard Sums', hits our TV screens this evening. Presented by former graduate of  the UCD School of Physics (& comedian), Dara O'Briain (or should it be Dara O'Brain?), the series hopes to solve some very tasty real-world brainteasers and conundrums. Alongside Dara is Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University who is obviously just there for comedic effect. Together they hope to explore some of the world's greatest and most unusual maths questions in a unique and humorous way.

Each episode in this eight-part series follows a particular theme and Dara, along with comedy guests like David O'Docherty, Andi Osho, Alex Horne, Simon Evans and Jason Byrne, dissect new mathematical conundrums in each episode and find out guaranteed ways to solve them. These conundrums include working out the optimum angle to jump into a river and pull a drowning man to safety, deducing which door to pass through if the choices are one leading to an exit and one leading to certain death and finding out the most slices you can get out of a pizza if you're only allowed to cut it three times - everyday problems obviously.

While as entertaining as Dara's new show is going to be, I am also expecting a great deal of educational value too. Everyone needs to understand the importance of maths in our everyday lives and mixing humour with numbers is the perfect way to do it! 

School of Hard Sums begins tonight on DAVE at 8pm - set your Sky+ box now! Check out the School of Hard Sums website to find out more about the series and complete a number of mathematical challenges!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

YouTube Saturday - How to Grow a Planet

The excellent BBC series, How to Build a Planet, is now available to purchase on Amazon. In this wonderfully unique series Scottish Geologist, Professor Iain Stewart, tells a stunning new story about our planet revealing how the greatest changes to the Earth have been driven, above all, by plants.

In this episode, Ian spends time in a airtight chamber full of plants. The chamber is intended to be a powerful demonstration of how plants act as the lungs of planet Earth, providing all the oxygen that sustains us. With the lights off, the levels of oxygen drop to dangerously low levels for Ian, whose rate of brain activity begins to slow. Then, with the lights on, plants reveal how important they are to animal life on the planet.

The DVD is certainly one for the collection and is available to buy on Amazon now!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Science 140 - A New Social Media Project!


I am delighted to launch a new science themed crowd-sourcing social media project - Science 140. The idea is simple. Using twitter (and the hashtag #science140) or the Science 140 website we want to collate short science definitions and explanations (all less than twitter's 140 character limit) from across the various branches of science. The project aims to bring together the best of these explanations and publish them in book - the proceeds of which will go to charity. All tweeters will be credited in the final product. As one might expect, the idea had its origins on twitter during a conversation between Paul O'Dwyer (@ShirtnTie), Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin (@Aoibhinn_ni_s) & me (@TheFrogBlog)

As well as definitions we also want people to explain how something works, why things are the way they are or what happens if etc. As mentioned before, these can be from across the sciences and could include the human body, the universe, space, astronomy, microbiology, physics, chemistry, food science, zoology, plant life, cells, history of science, famous scientists, medicine, engineering, maths or even social science. The Science 140 website contains some examples of what we are looking for as well as more information on what we want to achieve. There is also an associated twitter account (@Science140) which will retweet submissions daily and call for ideas based on daily themes!

The website and twitter account will collect definitions and explanations over April, May & June 2012 - with a view to publish our short book for Christmas!