Bias, Agenda & Opinion- How to spot it.

Wednesday, April 10th, 2024 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

In earlier posts we have highlighted how to look for ‘trusted sources’.
In this post we will focus a little more on bias, agenda and opinion and how it might influence the information provided and how it is provided by a source.
Check out these short clips from:

CTRL-F Digital Media Literacy-Verification skills course
Skill: Advanced Wikipedia: Bias and Agenda
Check the Claim with Jane Lytvynenko

You may also find the links below from University of Wisconsin and American Public University Library interesting and useful. They have lots of useful tips and hints for you to employ when doing your research

Identifying Bias

No post on bias, agenda and opinion should be without specific mention of what’s known as ‘Cognitive Bias’

In the words of famous physicist Richard Feynman

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

(As well as being a theoretical physicist Feynman was known for his engaging and entertaining lectures and he had a unique ability to communicate complex scientific ideas to a general audience making him one of the most popular and beloved science communicators of his time.)

 

                                    So, what is ‘Cognitive Bias’?

Psychologist Kia-Rai Prewitt, PhD, describes it thus
“If we have a cognitive bias, we may interpret information based off of our own beliefs and experiences. And sometimes, the ways that we interpret that information may or may not be accurate.”

Check out her article Cognitive Bias 101: What It Is and How To Overcome It where she also gives examples of each.

See also

In our search for what may be ‘true’ knowledge an awareness of bias and how it may manifest itself is key to effective research.

Science Writing Competition-Dear Nature Podcast

Monday, June 20th, 2022 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Science Academy 2020 alumni and creator of Dear Nature Podcast series is running a science writing competition for Year 9-13 students across Otago  and Southland.

So if you live in those areas why not have a go and  you could win over $500 worth of prizes AND have your wining entry turned into a ‘Dear Nature Podcast‘ episode by Max.

For more info just look for the Dear Nature Podcast on Instagram or Facebook   or email dearnaturepodcast@gmail.com

Easy Parenting: Brood Parasites Get Someone Else to Do the Hard Work

Friday, September 25th, 2020 | Petrina Duncan | No Comments

 For most birds, reproduction is a life process that takes up a lot of time and energy. There are huge energetic costs to a female bird with respect to mating, egg-laying, incubating the eggs and feeding hungry chicks for many weeks or months. Some birds also migrate vast distances across land and sea before breeding can commence, using up even more time and energy. Breeding for a bird is a lot of hard work.

So, if a bird found an easier way to become a successful breeder, we would expect that behaviour to be favoured by natural selection and become fixed. In about 1% of all bird species, that’s exactly what has happened: it’s called brood parasitism.

Brood parasites are birds who have learned how to make the parenting process much easier. They still have to find a partner and mate successfully, but instead of the female bird laying her eggs in a nest that she and/or her partner made, she stealthily lays them in the nest of another bird. Intraspecific brood parasites lay eggs in nests belonging to birds of their own species, compared to interspecific brood parasites who target other bird species.

Common cuckoo chick in the nest of a tree pipit.

Common cuckoo chick in the nest of a tree pipit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benefits and advantages for the brood parasites:

  • Increased breeding output
  • Minimal energy expenditure because they don’t defend a nest, incubate eggs or feed chicks.
  • Genes passed on to the next generation.

Costs and disadvantages for the host birds:

  • Decreased breeding output
  • Expending more energy raising someone else’s offspring, especially if the parasitic chick is very large as more food will have to be found.
  • Not passing on genes to the next generation.

Generalists and Specialists

Some brood parasites put their eggs into the nests of a wide variety of other species. These are called generalists. An advantage of this behaviour is the flexibility it offers. Generalists can be successful in many different places and at almost any time, as long as a suitable host bird is nesting nearby.

Alternatively, brood parasites can be specialists. They will target one species to be the host of their egg/s. The limiting factor in this approach is the lack of flexibility, as parasites must live close to their host species or spend time and energy travelling to find them during the breeding season.

 Brood parasites in New Zealand

Cuckoos are the most famous brood parasitic birds worldwide. In New Zealand, two migratory species of cuckoos arrive on our shores in September and October each year. The shining cuckoo/pīpīwharauroa (Maori name) is the smaller of the two species. These small birds fly all the way from the Solomon Islands and the Bismarck Archipelago, a distance of more than 5000 kilometres. On arrival in NZ, shining cuckoos/pīpīwharauroa seek out their target host species, the tiny grey warbler/riroriro, in forests and gardens across the whole country.

Shining cuckoo/pīpīwharauroa being fed by its host parent, a grey warbler/riroriro.

Shining cuckoo/pīpīwharauroa being fed by its host parent, a grey warbler/riroriro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long-tailed cuckoos/koekoeā fly to NZ from even further away. They spend winter in an arc of Pacific Islands which extends from Henderson Island (Pitcairn group) in the east to Palau in the far west of Micronesia. A long-tailed cuckoo/koekoeā migrating from Palau to NZ will fly more than 6700 kilometres – perhaps that’s why they don’t have the energy to be a ‘normal’ bird parent. They arrive in NZ in September and October to begin searching for their target host species. In the North Island, they look for a small bird called the whitehead/pōpokatea in tall, mature forests. The forests of the South Island have two host species for long-tailed cuckoos/koekoeā: the brown creeper/pīpipi and the rarer yellowhead/mohua. All three of these host species are endemic to NZ and closely related.

Whitehead host parent feeding a young long-tailed cuckoo

Whitehead host parent feeding a young long-tailed cuckoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strategies of a successful brood parasite

  • Be selective. Brood parasites take their time to find the best host ‘mum’ to be a surrogate parent for their offspring. In human terms, this is a like parents shopping around to find the very best day care centre for their toddler. Before putting her eggs into a host’s nest, the parasitic bird will watch a potential ‘mum’ closely to appraise her age, condition, singing ability, territory location, size of the nest and its location. These factors will contribute to the parasite’s final choice of the best host for the job.
  • Team Work. Some parasitic bird pairs work together to achieve their goal. For example, male great spotted cuckoos in Southern Europe will stage an attack on an unsuspecting pair of magpies. The male cuckoo appears in full view of the magpies to divert their attention and launch a pretend attack. Meanwhile the female cuckoo sneaks into the magpies’ nest to quickly lay her egg. This risky egg-laying behaviour is only possible because both the male and female are working as a team to ensure the hosts don’t see what’s happening.
  • Egg mimicry and timing of laying. Parasitic bird eggs have evolved over time to look and feel very similar to the host’s eggs, a concept called egg mimicry. This reduces the chance of egg rejection by the host. Their eggs also usually have thicker shells than the host’s eggs. Parasitic birds will also strategically time their egg laying. By waiting until the host has already laid a few eggs, the parasitic female ensures that incubation is already underway.
The larger blue egg is that of the parasitic common cuckoo. The cuckoo’s egg looks very similar to those of the host, a common redstart

The larger blue egg is that of the parasitic common cuckoo. The cuckoo’s egg looks very similar to those of the host, a common redstart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Chicks who are bullies. Brood parasite eggs generally hatch earlier than the host’s eggs. The parasitic chicks use strategies like pushing the host’s eggs and chicks out of the nest or stabbing chicks with a special hook on their beak. Imposter chicks also tend to make louder, more frequent begging sounds to ensure they get all the food from host parents. Some species like NZ’s shining cuckoo have chicks who can mimic the begging call of a grey warbler’s chicks, ensuring the host is fooled into feeding them.
  • Total destruction of eggs. Sometimes a cuckoo misses the chance to lay her eggs at the optimum time. As an extreme measure, she will destroy the entire egg collection in the host’s nest. This behaviour is like a reset for the host bird to start over with breeding. She will probably mate again and lay another clutch of eggs while the watchful parasite bird prepares to intercept at just the right time.
Common cuckoo chick in host nest

Common cuckoo chick in host nest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can host birds fight back?

Brood parasitism is a classic coevolutionary “arms race”. Each time a host species evolves a new behaviour to defend against brood parasitism, the parasite species evolves a new trait which makes its breeding strategy more successful. Here are a few ways in which hosts can fight back.

  • Egg recognition. Many host birds have evolved to be experts at egg recognition. They will recognise and then reject eggs which look different to their own. Sometimes a host will even leave its nest entirely if a strange looking egg appears. However, brood parasites have adapted to this selection pressure by either becoming generalists (they parasitise multiple species) or producing eggs which are almost identical to the host’s eggs (egg mimicry).
  • Chick recognition. Some host ‘mums’ are able to recognise and reject chicks which are not their own. However, rejecting chicks carries the risk of mistakenly rejecting their own chicks. If the rate of parasitism is very high, selection for accurate chick recognition will be stronger.
  • Nest features. Species that commonly get parasitised may deploy nesting tactics to minimise interference. Their nest may be well camouflaged to avoid detection. The nest’s location could be away from places where parasitic birds can sit. The nest entrance may be too small for the brood parasite to enter. For example, the grey warbler’s nest entrance is tiny, preventing shining cuckoos from entering. But the cuckoo manages to parasitise their nests regardless. Researchers suspect the egg is laid elsewhere then carried in the cuckoo’s beak up to the warbler’s nest and carefully deposited inside.

Should we be concerned about brood parasitism?

As our climate changes and the human population continues to increase, natural habitats such as forests are disappearing due to fires, logging, agriculture and urban sprawl. For bird species that are already in decline due to habitat loss, brood parasitism  may pose a significant threat, especially if generalist parasites increase in numbers. Reproductive success will be compromised at a time when the population is already decreasing. The combined pressures could become too much, putting the species at risk of localised extinction.

On the bright side, a brood parasitic species can’t survive without its host species. Parasitic birds often wait until their target host has raised one clutch of offspring before parasitising the second nest. This is a behaviour which will give rare host species a helping hand.

Grey warblers will often raise a family of chicks successfully early in spring, before the shining cuckoos arrive in NZ from their long migratory journey. Even if the grey warbler’s second nest gets targeted by a shining cuckoo, they have already contributed their genes to the next generation and hopefully the behaviour of early nesting was also passed on to their offspring.

For rarer NZ bird species such as the yellowhead/mohua and whitehead/pōpokatea, being less successful breeders due to parasitism by long-tailed cuckoos/koekoeā is a concern to conservationists. Long-tailed cuckoos are also able to parasitise the nests of the more common brown creeper/pīpipi in the South Island. As yellowhead numbers decrease, brown creeper numbers may also begin to decline due to being parasitised at a higher rate. In the North Island, whiteheads are increasing in numbers due to human conservation efforts which will hopefully help to mitigate the negative effects of brood parasitism.

Conclusion

Brood parasitism represents a rare and unusual parenting strategy. There are many benefits for the bird who does the parasitising such as avoiding most of the hard work involved with being a parent.

Brood parasitism is a great example of coevolution in which the evolutionary “arms race” is played out in the privacy of a nest or within the boundaries of a territory. There will always be winners and losers in this host-parasite exploitative relationship. What we must try to do is reduce or eliminate human-related pressures which adversely affect the breeding success of birds. By helping to conserve native bird species and their habitats, we’ll be supporting them to withstand the negative impact of brood parasitism long term.

Further reading:

Photo Credits:

Common cuckoo chick in the nest of a tree pipit.
Vladlen666/WikiMedia Commons (CC1.0)
https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/cuckoos-may-have-long-lasting-impact-other-birds

Shining cuckoo/pīpīwharauroa being fed by its host parent, a grey warbler/riroriro.
Photography by Robin Colquhoun. From NZ Birds Online: http://www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/shining-cuckoo#bird-photos

Whitehead host parent feeding a young long-tailed cuckoo. Photography by Adam Clarke.
From NZ Birds Online: http://nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/long-tailed-cuckoo

The larger blue egg is that of the parasitic common cuckoo. The cuckoo’s egg looks very similar to those of the host, a common redstart. Photography: Dr. Tomas Grim. https://phys.org/news/2018-05-russian-cuckoo-invasion-alaskan-birds.html

Common cuckoo chick in host nest. Photography by Per Harald Olsen (CC BY 2.0)
https://www.birdorable.com/blog/bird-term-brood-parasite/

Using Podcasts to Learn About Science

Thursday, April 30th, 2020 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Written by Petrina Duncan

If you enjoy listening to stories and are naturally curious, podcasts are a way in which you could learn more about almost any topic you can think of. There are lots of benefits of listening to podcasts: you can do other tasks such as exercising at the same time, a wide range of global topics are covered, you will hear a range of communication methods, and you can visualise as you listen which engages multiple parts of your brain. Learn about other benefits here.

The diversity of podcasts is huge, so here is a list of some science-based podcasts accessible online which you can browse through to find topics you are interested in or curious about. Enjoy the show!

New Zealand Podcast Series:

  1. Our Changing World This excellent science and natural history series has been running for many years on Radio New Zealand (RNZ). The weekly show is currently hosted by the very talented Alison Ballance, a zoologist, wildlife filmmaker, writer and radio producer. Alison often goes on location for her stories to labs and field sites in remote and rugged places, eg. Antarctica, Codfish Island and the Chatham Islands. Highly recommended. Also worth listening to is Alison’s four-part series called Voice of the Iceberg set in Antarctica.
  1. Critter of the Week Presented by Jesse Mulligan (RNZ) and Nicola Toki (Department of Conservation’s Threatened Species Ambassador), this weekly session combines a friendly chat with a scientific description of uncharismatic but loveable, lesser known species in NZ. For example, learn about the NZ antlion, Bryde’s whales, basking sharks, or Smeagol the gravel maggot. Who knew there was a maggot named after Smeagol?
  1. Science Express Presented by Te Papa museum in Wellington (see their blog), these podcasts are recordings of live interviews with experts, recorded in front of an audience. Learn about diverse topics such as the psychology of criminals, fossil hunting for dinosaurs and drilling into the Alpine Fault. Not a weekly series.
  1. Scigest Described as ‘podcast-sized servings of digestible science from the world of Plant and Food research’, this has something for everyone. Within their numerous podcast episodes, learn about topics such as the future of food, the personality of a snapper, stink bugs and the career path to becoming a scientist. A must for future scientists, especially those interested in plants, food, horticulture, biosecurity or genetics.
  1. Stupid questions for scientists Although not strictly a NZ podcast, the presenter is an award winning science communicator, Dr Michelle Dickinson, better known as Nano Girl, who now teaches at the University of Auckland. Described as “a brilliantly entertaining, while delightfully educating podcast which brings together top comedians and scientists. Topics include animal intelligence, medicinal majijuana and the science of attraction. Riveting stuff!

Australian Podcast Series:

  1. The Science Show A weekly radio series produced by the ABC in Australia. The Science Show provides unique insights into the latest scientific research and debate, from the physics of cricket to prime ministerial biorhythms. Hear about the future of space research, how young people view science, life at extreme ocean depths and amazing stories about blood.
  1. Great Moments in Science Another ABC Australia production, host Dr Karl Kruszelnicki reveals ‘groundbreaking and life-saving’ science stories, as well as a few ‘wacky and implausible’ ones. Be absorbed by topics such as why humans are no longer cannibals, why 5G won’t kill you and the intelligence of spiders.
  1. Science Friction Described by the ABC as ‘science, culture and everything in between’ this series focuses on topics which might be slightly contentious, edgy or controversial. Hosted by award-winning science presenter/journalist Natasha Mitchell. Check out their recent podcast on bats, pandemics and China’s wildlife markets with relation to the COVID-19 virus. Great interviews with relevant experts.

British Podcast Series:

  1. 5 Live Science Podcast Join Dr Chris Smith and the ‘Naked Scientists’ for a weekly update of science news stories and analysis from the BBC radio. Their topics are diverse, their humour is entertaining, and they even answer questions from the public about science topics. Episode examples: beached whales, bright Neanderthals, the Coronavirus, veganism, gene editing. Great listening.
  1. Costing the Earth An excellent BBC radio series which covers a wide range of global environmental and conservation topics. They often go on location and interview lots of different experts. Episode examples include: eco anxiety, how young people are taking on climate change issues, and ending the age of plastics. Subscribe and upskill.
  1. Discovery Explorations into the world of science from BBC radio. The presenters often interview leading scientists who have made significant discoveries in their field of research. Episode examples include gene research, stem cells, COVID-19, locust plagues and micro-plastics in the ocean.
  1. CrowdScience The BBC take ‘questions from the public about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.’ Updated weekly, you can hear answers to questions like:  Can science explain why I love shopping? Why are we obsessed with crime? Would humans still exist if dinosaurs were alive? Fascinating stuff.
  1. BBC Inside Science Dr Adam Rutherford and guests illuminate the mysteries and challenge the controversies behind the science that’s changing our world. Of particular interest to NZ biology students will be their podcasts about human evolution, eg. The hidden history in our DNA – Part 1 – Sex and Disease and The hidden history in our DNA – Part 2 – Travel and Culture.

American Podcast Series:

  1. Sciencemag A weekly science podcast show, produced by the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). Two or three topics are discussed each week, including interviews with expert scientists. They currently have a strong focus on COVID-19 related stories (like most science podcasts!). Other topics include: visiting a near-Earth asteroid, why adults are always badmouthing the next generation, and the limits on human endurance. Something for everyone.
  1. Overheard at National Geographic Each week, the presenters ‘dive into one of the curiously delightful conversations they’ve overheard around National Geographic’s headquarters. You’ll be introduced to the explorers, photographers and scientists at the edges of our big, bizarre, and beautiful world.’ Hear about zombie mice, the hidden cost of the perfect selfie, and how beavers work as carbon releasers of the permafrost environment. The National Geographic website has lots of other wonderful things to explore.
  1. Scientific American  If your attention span is short, these podcasts might suit you. They are short, snappy and always interesting. Learn about worm-like creatures which are our ancient ancestors, puffins using tools, COVID-19 updates and fungi on flaky scalps. Delightful !

Hopefully this list of science podcasts inspires you to tune in, get inspired and practise the art of listening. Remember that podcasts are also available through itunes, spotify, iHeart radio, Google Podcasts and radio network websites like the BBC, ABC, RNZ and our own local Dunedin based OAR FM:  Science Academy(OUASSA) Student Podcasts and University of Otago Science Notes.

Are ALL Viruses Bad?

Thursday, March 26th, 2020 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

graphic of sausage-shaped bacteria with pin-like viruses attachedWith all that is going on  around us,  all across this beautiful planet of ours and the word `virus’ dominating everything we see, hear, read in the media at the moment I found myself thinking “Are all viruses bad? Are there any useful, beneficial viruses? And  why  ARE bats  such good carriers  off so many nasty diseases – over 60 of them!”

It seems highly likely that viruses do play a substantial part in maintaining a healthy body.  You have probably heard of our `microbiome’ but what about our ‘virome’
Read more here:
How ‘good’ viruses may influence health 
Here:
Not All Viruses Are Bad For You. Here Are Some That Can Have a Protective Effect
And here:
Viruses Don’t Deserve Their Bad Rap: They’re The Unsung Heroes You Never See
[In  the embedded Ted-X talk in this link, the always engaging, Peter Pollard also  illustrates some illuminating facts about how much C02 freshwater ecosystems pump into the atmosphere, due in part to viruses… everything is linked! ]

And on the question of why bats are such good carriers of disease.Brown bat in flight
Check out:
Why Do Bats Transmit So Many Diseases?

BEFORE YOU CLICK-  Spend a minute thinking about what you know of bat behaviour and basic physiology …. (The answer may take flight in your head…(hint))

 

However, when all is said and done our thoughts are all on one virus at the moment.

Ever wondered how the tests for Coronavirus work?
May you never have to take one!

P.S.
Need a refresher on just exactly what viruses are and how they work?
Check out this great Khan Academy Tutorial on Viruses and the  text Q&A that follows.

Stay safe
Be patient

I’ve been thinking….

Friday, August 30th, 2019 | Wendy Dunn | No Comments

Actually it starts with listening, thinking, reading and then some more thinking. The nature of Science learning! This year I have had the luxury of having the opportunity to listen to the radio while I am working. I find my ears prick up and I tune in when an interesting science item comes on. Radio New Zealand is my frequency of choice. Even if it’s not yours it is well worth dipping into for anyone with an interest in keeping up with the latest Science news. They are easy listening and many of the programmes and interviews are available as podcasts (see below). The RNZ website is easy to search and there is a RNZ App if you like to listen while on the move.
Here are a few recent items that you might find interesting.

A very ugly lamb

A rare lamb was born in Rotorua that is basically bald – a lamb without wool. What would happen to this genetic rarity in the wild?bald lamb

 

 

 

 

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018710142/woolless-lamb-one-of-the-ugliest-lambs-i-ve-ever-seen

The Mosquito.  Our deadliest predator and a fascinating discussion about Sickle cell.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018709821/the-mosquito-our-deadliest-predator

Professor Timothy Winegard of Colorado Mesa University talks about the impact of the mosquito – the deadly diseases it carries have killed as many as 50 million people. One such disease is malaria. Individuals with the genetic condition sickle cell anaemia have resistance to malaria.
I found the section on American Football players who had sickle cell anaemia dying, or, coming close to dying, after pushing their body to the limit, particularly interesting. The deformed cells cannot carry enough oxygen and clog the blood supply to the muscles and tissue leading to tissue death and potentially a heart attack. Those of you who follow sport know that playing sport at high altitude, where there is less oxygen, is difficult and when players with sickle cell take to the field they are particularly vulnerable. This happens when the American Football players with sickle cell play at high altitude meaning they have to take precautions.
How did such a harmful condition end up being selected for?
Since the average age of a person with sickle cell is 23, there is enough opportunity for this trait to have been passed on before the person succumbs to the condition. It persists too because this mutant gene gave an evolutionary advantage against malaria (which must have been a strong selection pressure).

Read more here:

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2716677-footballs-silent-killer-forces-players-and-teams-to-make-tough-choices

Ernest Rutherford

Head shot of Ernest Rutherford

Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

NZ Biography of the Kiwi who split the atom 100 years ago. This book was written by Dr John Campbell, a NZ physicist himself. This link takes you to the written and audio version of the interview with Dr Campbell. . A must for physics and chemistry students!

 

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/2018709863/nz-biography-ernest-rutherford

Tales from the Periodic Table

If you haven’t been following this series check it out!  Different angles on the periodic table.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/elemental/story/2018683167/tales-from-the-periodic-table

and `Elemental’

https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/elemental 

The `most boring chemical element’  is a great article that highlights some of the quirky sides of the periodic table.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/elemental/story/2018706628/the-most-boring-chemical-element

Lord of the Rings Fans

Peter Jackson was inspired by the black tunnel web spider of NZ when creating the spider Shelob in the movie trilogy.

close up of black tunnel web spider

Source: Te Papa

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/2018710092/critter-of-the-week-black-tunnelweb-spider

Nicola Toki of DOC has a weekly RNZ radio spot  `Critter of the Week’ that focuses on a NZ species.

Podcasts on the other species can be found here:

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/collections/critter-of-the-week

 

Muslim Scientists- A legacy long before the European Enlightenment.

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

As our hearts go out to the victims of the Christchurch Mosque attack I find myself Montage of portraits of famous historical Muslim scientistsreflecting on the significant contribution to science made by the Islamic culture.
The brutal and tragic massacre of innocent civilians in a Christchurch Mosque on 15 March 2019 is a sad and sobering reminder of our capacity for extreme intolerance of a belief system other than our own.
As a species we seem to embrace belief systems. There are estimated to be over 4,000 belief systems or religions across the globe with nearly 75% of humankind practicing one the five most influential religions of the world: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam.

Science, on the other hand is not a `belief system’ but a process – a problem-solving approach we call the `scientific method’:-

1. Make an observation.
2. Ask a question.
3. Form a hypothesis, or testable explanation.
4. Make a prediction based on the hypothesis.
5. Test the prediction.
6. Iterate: use the results to make new hypotheses or predictions.

As such it is universal – a universal process we can apply to help us unravel the mysteries of the world around us.
Many exponents of the scientific method may themselves be religious. There is no contradiction in that. Science is a process.
“The father of the Big Bang theory was actually a Catholic priest, the pioneer of modern genetics was an Augustinian monk, or the decoder of the human genome converted from atheism to Christianity in his 20s

The world of science owes a great deal to the Islamic culture. 

Long before the European Enlightenment, scholars and researchers working from Samarkand in modern-day Uzbekistan to Cordoba in Spain advanced our knowledge of astronomy, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, medicine and philosophy.*

So I thought I’d make today’s blog a brief celebratory foray into the world of famous Muslim scientists.

Here are just 10 who made a significant contribution to the world of science, our world over the last few hundred years.

1. Jabir ibn Hayyan: 721-815 AD
“Father of Chemistry”. His text on chemistry and alchemy laid the foundation of modern chemistry
2. Ibn al-Haytham: 965 AD
Astronomer, mathematician, and physicist. Invented the Pin-Hole Camera.
3. Al-Biruni: 973-1048 AD
Scientist, mathematician, physicist, astronomer, and natural scientist.
At the age of 17 he calculate the latitude of his village. Calculated radius of the Earth.
4. Al-Kindi: ~ 805-873 AD
He was the first to discover sound waves.
Wrote 260 books on various subjects &was expert in several subjects like, physics, math, astronomy, geography, music, and especially philosophy.
5. Ahmed Zewail: 1946-2016
Nobel Prize winner and “father of femtochemisty”.
6. Abdus Salam: 1926-1996
First Muslim to receive a Nobel Prize in science for his contribution in electroweak unification theory
7. Ibn al-Nafis: 1213- 1288 AD
He was the first who fully describe the pulmonary circulation of the blood.
8. Aziz Sancar:  Born 1946
Nobel laureate for his work on DNA repair
9. Ali Javan: 1926-2016
Quantum Physics and Spectroscopy. Co-inventor of gas laser 1960
10. Omar Khayyam: ~1048-1132 AD
As well as being famous poet he solved and classified cubic equation. His method was largely based on geometric solution and his solar calendar was one of the most accurate.
(See the references below if you want to explore further)

References:

What are the most widely practiced religions of the world?
Big believers: Dr Stephen Juan 6 Oct 2006
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/10/06/the_odd_body_religion/

How the scientific method is used to test a hypothesis.
Kahn Academy
https://www.khanacademy.org/science/high-school-biology/hs-biology-foundations/hs-biology-and-the-scientific-method/a/the-science-of-biology

First worldwide survey of religion and science: No, not all scientists are atheists
Phys.Org Dec 3 2015
https://phys.org/news/2015-12-worldwide-survey-religion-science-scientists.html

Did History’s Most Famous Scientists Believe In God?
Forbes (Quora) June 26 2018
https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2018/06/26/did-historys-most-famous-scientists-believe-in-god/#75aaae584f21

Are religion and science always at odds? Here are three scientists that don’t think so
Anna Salleh ABC Science 24 May 2018
https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2018-05-24/three-scientists-talk-about-how-their-faith-fits-with-their-work/9543772

Top 20 Muslim Scientists and Their Inventions
http://niceeducationtips.com/top-muslim-scientists-and-their-inventions

Muslim Scientists
https://www.slideshare.net/RehanShaikh14/muslim-scientists-48572693

Further Reading:

Science and Islam: A History*
by Ehsan Masood
Icon Books Ltd; UK ed. ISBN-10: 9781848310407

Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, and Artists 
by Michael H. Morgan
National Geographic; Reprint Edition  ISBN-10: 9781426202803

Engaging Students in Science

Thursday, March 21st, 2019 | Wendy Dunn | No Comments

As a teacher it’s always great to get a few more ideas or to be reminded of some techniques you have used in the past but have dropped off the radar.

Don’t forget to model your interest in trialling new techniques and your own enthusiasm for the content. It is infectious!

So what is engagement and what does it look like?  How do you know someone  2 students by microscope in labis engaged?

Engagement is expressed via:

  • Asking and answering questions (a sign of curiosity)
  • Willingness to participate in learning activities (rather than passively being spoon fed)
  • Completion of tasks including reading and writing tasks both individually and in groups
  • Meeting deadlines, completion of problem solving tasks, and participation in discussion

Cultivating a thriving classroom atmosphere also relies on relationships within that classroom although that is not the focus of this blog.  We know that once this culture is created students are more likely to take risks and let’s face it risk taking is essential in science – the willingness to try something new, often fail and learn from this.

An example of testability of the scientific method in the cultural context from NZ Science Teacher

Similarities: Both Indigenous Knowledge and Empirical Science involve repeated practical tests and are based on the “test of time”. Pasifika people were able to make repeat voyages.

Differences: The principle difference is that tests of IK largely involve trial and error, while ES tests are ideally conducted in a laboratory/in the field with strict control of variables.

Giving opportunities for choice can increase engagement:

  • What variables do they want to control in an experiment? (see examples below)
  • What current event do they want to present to the class?
  • What element of the periodic table do they want to research?

Using topics students are passionate becomes a great context for teaching Science content.

e.g. Climate Change.  Many students took to the streets to take part in a global student strike in March 2019.

Juniors look at elements, compounds, states of matter, the water cycle and atmosphere.  Sources of carbon dioxide, methane and then problem solving – What action can they take as individuals, a class, a school, community that makes a difference?  Perhaps use Tony Ryan’s Thinking Keys for some ideas on how to extend exploration with engaging activities.

Seniors you could explore the importance of variation within a changing environment.  Already we are seeing evidence of some species living at higher latitudes and altitudes.  Which species/groups of organisms are more vulnerable to the rapid environmental change?

Whatever strategies we employ for Maori and Pasifika students will also benefit other students. This excellent NZ Science teacher article has more detail.  Below are some of their contextual examples.

Essentially, using relevant contexts will make science education more appropriate.  The areas of environment including ecology, medical and pharmaceutical knowledge along with genetic modification are key areas for Maori. There are, of course, many other applications in the Science Curriculum.

Examples from NZ Science Teacher:

  • Investigate colour differences in flax varieties and the influence of soil, climate, disease, and pests
  • Investigate time taken for yogurt to “go off”. Variables include temperature, flavour and brand.
  • Discuss cultural weapons and how they were used when discussing ‘force and energy’

Try to remember to get the students involved in preparation of activities rather than passively participating – e.g. writing quiz questions, not just doing a quiz.  Practicals, group work and activities that require problem solving and critical thinking are crucial.  Include some movement where possible.

Employing differentiation strategies (e.g. Jigsaw) allows you to group by learning style, Learning Map Theory graphicor topic or simply a chance for students to take ownership of their knowledge by becoming familiar with it and teaching others, often several times. This repetition is key along with reciprocal learning and teaching.  If catering to learning styles then different presentation styles can be employed.

What else?

  • Think, pair, share
  • Flash cards
  • Science facts in cards: sort into piles: I know, I sort of know, I didn’t know. Do at start and end of topic.  Do on own or in pairs – discuss and explain your understanding or lack of for each fact.  What do you have in common?  Where do you differ?
  • Word games to help with Scientific symbols and terminology: Hangman, Pictionary, Bingo, Scrabble, Odd One Out, Charades, and online versions e.g. Kahoot and Quizlet
  • Word parts: Lots of scientific terms can be broken down. Students get 2-3 parts that they have to match up along with a definition, e.g. Prefix = Photo (light), Synth (make), isis (process).  Helps them identify new terms in the future.  Students can relate to other languages.
  • Supply terms which students must place in order (e.g. smallest to largest: cell, tissue, organ, organism) either as cards on desk/board OR they hold them up and arrange themselves in order. Then make sentences linking terms or explaining the relationship with examples.
  • Online Science Games. Try this or this NZ site – don’t underestimate how even some of the simple ones are actually very useful to a range of ages and abilities
  • Use of Aps in the classroom. Students can explore cells, use light meters.  I like this one
  • Students identify and share good science feeds to follow on Twitter
  • Analyse a movie for its scientific accuracy. Check out 10 STEM ones here (first few are for younger viewers but the supporting ideas are good for the others)
  • Field trips, Virtual Science fieldtrips and practical work
  • Thinking maps to link between concepts. There are also sites students can create online
  • Write learning objectives as questions at the start of the lesson. Draw attention to them so that students know what is happening and why this strategy will help their learning.  Check understanding with students answering questions at the end.

Another article in NZ Science Teacher focuses on Physics.  It gives a strategy to enable structured explanations as DELA (Define, Explain, Link, Answer the question).

“The student must not imagine physics as a process of ‘finding the correct formula to use, rather they must experience the need to understand physics”.

Whakataukī (proverbs) are a key part of Māori culture.

Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei.

Aim for the highest cloud so that if you miss it, you will hit a lofty mountain

Try creating a proverb for some aspect of science e.g.  ‘He who gains speed most quickly will have the greatest acceleration.’

Further Reading

Wendy Dunn  Bsc.DipTchg
Science Teaching Co-ordinator

Tell me what I want to hear…

Friday, May 12th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

OUASSA 2017 students have been working towards a presentation to the public at the Otago Museum which will take place on July 14th. The research for their presentations are in full swing and things should be starting to come together for their presentations. Some recent experiences have reminded me of the importance not only of researching your topic, but of evaluating the information that you find.

Evaluating the information you find is especially important when researching topics that are emotional or controversial, where people are inclined to have opinions based on anecdotal evidence from the world around them. Many of the topics that are being researched for presentations in July fall into this category. People feel very strongly about topics like Climate Change, Genetic Modification and Medicine in the Third World. It is important in a presentation to the public that you are presenting the science behind the issue and relying on provable facts rather than popular (or unpopular) opinion.

The internet is a great place for research because you can very quickly find a lot of information. The downside though is that unlike a book or a research publication, anyone can put information on the internet without any verification that it is actually true, and present it as fact.

For that reason, it is very important when you are researching to make sure that you evaluate the sources that you are using. Although after researching, you may have formed a personal opinion on the issue, it is important that when researching, you are looking at unbiased information based on fact (or at least that you are conscious of the bias and are looking at the information with that in mind).

The library have produced a nice little reference for evaluating internet sources using the acronym BAD URL. You can find a copy here. How_to_Evaluate_Websites

If you want to really dig deeply into how to evaluate sources, this is an e-learning module produced by the University library designed to help you learn about different types of information sources and how to evaluate them.

In July, the students will be having a presentation on “What your brain does when you’re not looking.” Unconsciously, we all are influenced by our bias and frame the world through our own experiences. It is important to make sure we are aware of this and do as much as possible to limit bias in our work and promote impartiality.

Once Upon a Time…

Monday, March 27th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.”
The Stranger by Albert Camus

“The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”
The Gunslinger by Stephen King

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.”
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

These are the first lines from some random, well known stories. You can find lists of best first lines or exciting first lines all over the internet. No matter what story they come from though, they all have one thing in common, the first line needs to set the scene but also leave you wanting more.

There’s no doubt that a good story has the power to hook us, reel us in, and capture our imagination until the tale is through. Everyone, young and old loves a great story. A good story can be a powerful vehicle to impart information.

Building on the idea from two weeks ago that to engage an audience, you need to:

  1. Validate the audience’s thinking
  2. Take them on a journey
  3. Be framed within their values
  4. Fall within social norms
  5. Involve pictures and graphs (and I would add audience participation!)

Think about the stories that you have enjoyed, did they do these things? Did they validate your thinking? Take you on a journey? Were they framed within your values?

The point is – storytelling is a powerful tool. It may be the most powerful tool that you have to engage with your audience. When you are developing your presentation, think about the story behind it. Take the audience on a journey with you through the story you tell.

Here are a couple of examples for you to look at:

Example 1: Fergus McAuliffe speaking at the TEDX in Dublin tells a story about frogs. I particularly like this example because he has no slides, and only a few simple props, but at the end the audience is absolutely silent and spellbound.

Example 2: Tyler DeWitt speaking to high school science teachers. This one I chose because in contrast to the previous example, he uses visual aids behind him to tell the story. The story was part of a talk to teachers about the differences he found when presenting the material in a traditional way and using the story format (in the video clip) again, an engaging story that makes the science relatable to the audience.

Example 3: This is a LONG story but it is a good one. Jay O’Callaghan was commissioned to make a story as part of NASA’s 50th Anniversary. He tells a love story between two young NASA interns in modern times but interwoven is a lot of science and history of NASA. He tells it with no props, no visual aids, just a story. Engaging the audience with nothing more (or less) than a story.

Forged in the Stars – Jay O’Callaghan

 

Keep it simple…

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Venue for the ASC 2017 conference – the Science Exchange in Adelaide, Australia

Last night I returned home to Dunedin from Adelaide. I was attending the 9th annual Australian Science Communicators conference where I had a presentation to give and also a poster in the gallery. The conference was amazing and I learned a lot which will be shared over the coming weeks.

On the weekend after the conference I stayed in Adelaide and visited a number of the city’s attractions. It may have been the conference leaving Science Communication in the forefront of my mind but I found myself analysing each one in terms of good communication and engagement. There is still a LOT of static displays and writing to explain displayed artefacts in museums. In one of the conference presentations, a panel tried to address this – but by far the most effective presentations were the ones that were interactive.

Activity at the Migration Museum in Adelaide

One very simple example of this was the crosswalk activity that I encountered at the Migration Museum. The exhibit was meant to show how immigration policies in the first half of the 1900s favoured a certain type of migrant (white and British). Instead of screeds of writing and examples or even just a small statement, there was a large crosswalk on the wall. You read a description of someone who wanted to come to Australia at the time and then pushed the crosswalk button. The walk man lit up if they could immigrate, the don’t walk sign lit up if they couldn’t and a yellow traffic light was a maybe. A small lit up explanation of why that particular person could or couldn’t migrate was also displayed.

I think this was a brilliant example of how a simple metaphor (the crosswalk) was used to make information very relevant. Everyone crosses the street, imagine not being able to cross the street because of your race or circumstances. It certainly made me think about immigration and the effect of policy on people at that time. The setup was also engaging. I probably would have walked past a panel of the same information if it had just been written up on the wall.

So over the coming weeks I’ll share more of what I learned in Adelaide but my learning for today is the power of the simple metaphor. Finding something your audience relates to and use it to convey your message.

Video killed the radio star??

Thursday, April 7th, 2016 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

flatscreenThe other day, looking for a quick video on the Science of Sport to show a Physics class as a little starter, I went to the Veritasium website to look for some inspiration. I found these two videos which I think have been posted before but are definitely worth a re visit for Science Teachers.

This is going to REVOLUTIONIZE education! 

Effectiveness of Science Videos 

Just as an aside, I ended up going with this video: Bungy Jumping What I did was show the video to the students as a starter. They watched, I paused it when you need to select an answer. No one was keen to volunteer their answer to the question so I just un paused the video and let it finish. What they didn’t know was that no answer is actually given in the video! So, when the video was over, they HAD to discuss and work it out and talk with each other because they really really wanted to know the answer. SO we ended up having a great discussion on forces in the fall, what is that rope actually doing, we talked about transfer of energy and all kinds of good stuff. I’m definitely going to check out some of the other little starter videos and try and sneak one in again 🙂

 

 

Finding information…

Monday, March 7th, 2016 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

ResearchI was just looking for some materials to help my class become better at researching and found the awesome self help guides from the library.

http://otago.libguides.com/selfhelp

The library self help website that has TONS of tutorials and videos on how to research and also write reports. It is designed for uni students but I think it is still useful for the last year of high school as well! Particularly I am going to use http://www.otago.ac.nz/library/modules/power_searching/ which is about making effective online searches. And there are a bunch of resources on Google searching on the right hand side.

Also if you click on how do I improve my essay writing and report writing skills on the left hand side there are links to tutorials on essays, scientific reports etc

Happy researching!!

 

Can Meat Actually be Eco-Friendly?

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

In a country that relies heavily on agriculture- all be it heavily swayed towards dairy rather than meat production, for now at least- this a question worth investigating.
I came across this article as part one of a series of three articles on the question

Should we eat meat?

Meat in supermarket

Writer, Nathanael Johnson, author of All Natural: A Skeptic’s Quest to Discover If the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier. looks at this question from 3 perspectives:
• Environmental sustainability,
• Morality,
• Practicality.
In the first of these articles he asks the question
Can meat be sustainable?
You may find some of what he discovered on this topic quite illuminating.

Let there be light – part II!

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Logo_small

The photography competition mentioned in the last post (see poster below) has been extended to Wednesday the 8th of July – perhaps something to work on those first few days of the school holiday??

Additionally there are some cool public lectures coming up as part of Luminescence: The Spectrum of Science – a schedule can be found here: Luminescence Lectures

photo comp poster - X

 

Let there be light!!!

Monday, June 15th, 2015 | EMILY HALL | 1 Comment

Here are a couple of links to some events in honour of 2015, International Year of Light. There is a photo competition and a Year of Light expo suitable for all ages. These are being run by students from the Physics department including OUASSA alumni! Great to see alumni getting into science!!

quantum.otago.ac.nz/luminescence2015
quantum.otago.ac.nz/photocomp2015

“A frightening and potentially dangerous technology”

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

That was how Otago University Prof Peter Dearden  from Genetics OtagoChinese genome scientist(1) described  a recent paper by a groups of chinese scientists describing the first genetically modified human embryos and opening a route to germ-line modification of our own species.

Check it out  and add your own views to the Sciblogs  comments  page.

Soup in a can – a lesson in exothermic reactions.

Monday, April 13th, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

A while ago, a friend gave me this can that she had been given as a novelty prize somewhere somehow.

IMG_2357

Anyway, because it was “science-y” she thought I might enjoy it.

I must admit it’s been sitting on the shelf for a wee while. Mostly because every time I look at it and think I should try it out, something else comes along to distract me. Also due to being vegetarian for most of my life, the contents of the can have never really screamed my name. Recently though, I have heard advertisements on the radio for a similar or possibly the same product. I decided to pull out the can and give it a try. I don’t eat meat so I decided to use my carnivorous children as taste testers.

IMG_2359

IMG_2360

 

The can itself feels squishier than a regular can, like it is covered in foam under the label. I think the indicators on ours were not working because, as you can see, although the instructions said they would turn from black to green, both indicators were white initially.

Before we started, I went to the hotcan website to find out what was in there to produce the heat (water and calcium oxide) mostly because I wanted to cut the can apart after the experiment and didn’t want any chemical burn surprises

Pushing in the bottom of the can made a popping noise immediately.

IMG_2361

 

 

 

 

Shake it like a polaroid picture. We shook the can the required amount of time and then set it on the bench as specified in the instructions. Almost immediately, the can began to dance on the kitchen bench and steam was billowing out the bottom. (I told the kids to get back because I actually thought it was going to blow, thankfully this stopped fairly quickly)

After waiting the required time and using the ultra scientific method of feeling the can with our hands (broken indicator, remember?) we decided it was done and had a look/taste.

Reviews of the soup were favourable. The temperature was hotter than expected (said the tasters) there were no chunks, just a smooth soup. Taste was what you would expect from tinned soup. The boys did mention that there was less soup in the can than they had expected. The reason for this became clear when we opened up the can.

IMG_2364Inside the can you can see there is a cylinder coming up through the centre of the can – presumably this is so the soup heats from the middle to the outer layer. The foamy consistency of the can is a layer of insulating foam between the label and the can which would help with the soup heating, staying hot, and not burning your mitts off when you hold the can.

When we took the bottom off we saw this:

IMG_2368

Slightly hard to see from the image but it is like a bladder of what I assumed was water originally surrounded by a chunky white powder.

 

 

 

I asked the children (12 and 11) as I was writing today (2 days later) what if anything they had learned/remembered from this whole experience.

  • Water and calcium oxide produce heat which is transferred to heat the soup. You have to shake it to make it work better
  • When you burst the water packet, the water seeps into the calcium oxide, they must have measured the water and the calcium oxide so it produces only a certain amount of heat

An interesting and easy little experiment!

I found this Limestone Lesson Plan on the Royal Society of Chemistry website and thought it could be paired with the hot can for a great Chemistry lesson. Look at the Chemistry of Limestone lesson (which includes heating the limestone to make calcium oxide and then testing it with water to see the exothermic reaction) and then apply the knowledge to how the hot can product works.

 

 

 

It’s Eureka Time again !

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Eureka Science Communication Awards 2015

Eureka header_2013Hot off the Press  from Eureka HQ:

2015 EUREKA! Workshops and timetable

After a bit of a hiatus we can now advise the dates and venues for our free regional workshops which will help students prepare for the 2015 Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Awards competitions.
This year the Awards have been increased so that the Premier Award winner will take home a prize of $10,000.  Other prizes have also been adjusted.
We will also offer scholarships on the basis of the relevance of presentations to the 11 Science Challenges identified by the Government.

Entries for the Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Awards must be in by 5 p.m. on Friday 19 June – students should go to the EUREKA! website to register their entries.

It is advisable for students to visit the site and bone up on the entry criteria before submitting their entry to avoid the risk of disappointment if they fail to complete the entry requirements.
In addition they can attend one of the six regional workshops where they get all the information they need, including advice on presentation, research and analysis techniques, which will help them put forward the best entry they can.
Details of the dates and venues of the 6 regional workshops are available from the EUREKA! website
Please note that the Wellington and Hamilton workshops will be held on 18 April so its important that students are advised as soon as possible.
Ministry of Education distributed collateral will be in schools in short order.

If teachers wish to attend the workshops they are very welcome and will be provided with the course materials so they can help their students through the entry process.
A special teachers workshop has been organised by the Canterbury organising committee for 23 April – details on the Eureka website.

The regional competitions will be held in late July (dates and venues still to be finalised).
The National Finals Symposium will be held on 3 September in Wellington and will be followed by the Awards Dinner at Government House hosted by the Governor General, His Excellency the Right Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae.

Plans are afoot to extend the Eureka! programme into intermediate and primary schools so we can build a pathway for children from Year 4 (8 year olds) to become champions for the value of science, technology engineering and mathematics education for the future of New Zealand’s economy, society and environment.

Any questions or comments?  Don’t hesitate to contact

Email: eureka@eureka.org.nz
Francis Wevers
National Convenor
Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Awards Programme

For more details go to: http://eureka.org.nz

For details of the Otago Regional Workshop contact: steve.broni@otago.ac.nz

 

Chemistry detour…

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Chemistry

 

My next post was going to be on the chemistry behind the hot-can and I am part way through what I think is a neat little experiment/lesson involving this cool (or hot rather) invention. Today though, I was derailed by another Chemistry resource!

I’ve been a fan of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) open courseware for a while and I used snippets of it with classes and the OUASSA tutorials last year. I especially recommend their Highlights for High School where you can pick a topic and subtopic and be directed to a specific resource that may help you. Meaning for example, you don’t have to watch the whole lecture series on Classical Mechanics to help you in your struggles with Projectile Motion, the folks at MIT have pulled the relevant bits out of their screeds of material and collated it all for you. I must admit though to being so focussed on the Physics resources available, I was missing this little gem.

Chemistry Boot Camp is a multi episode show that follows 14 students as they go through a three week intensive lab course at MIT. The show is compelling for two reasons, first, it offers a glimpse into what life is like as a student at MIT and second, there is some really cool Chemistry going on. What I liked most about the show was that instead of just glossing over what the students were doing, there was an effort made to explain the Chemistry behind what they were doing and why.

The episodes are short – only 5 minutes ish in length and not counting the bonus episodes there are 11 in total, I managed to binge watch the entire series in a lunch break. A nice light Science meal to set up your afternoon.

 

 

Stepping Up and Out for Climate Change

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Anthropogenic Climate Change has once again hit the headlines http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/9887611/Climate-change-We-need-to-act-now ” It’s all so overwhelming! What can I do?  I got my finals coming up and  all my energies are focused on  them”  (And so they should be!) But what when they are over?  When you do come up for air  and/or need some inspiration as to what one individual can do check out this 18 year old from the US who impressed me not only with her commitment to the cause  but with  how articulate she is able to argue her case and the case of people her own age.kelsey Juliana-2crop “As world leaders converge for the UN’s global summit on climate and thousands gather in New York for the People’s Climate March, an 18-year-old Oregonian student, Kelsey Juliana, is walking across America to draw attention to global warming and taking her case to the US supreme court. Now just out of high school, she’s co-plaintiff in a major lawsuit being spearheaded by Our Children’s Trust that could force the state of Oregon to take a more aggressive stance against the carbon emissions warming the earth and destroying the environment. She’s walking across America as part of the Great March for Climate Action, due to arrive in Washington, DC, on November 1.” Video interview link: http://billmoyers.com/episode/climate-change-next-generation/

Maths-o-Magic!!!

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

invisibleNumberAt morning tea the other day, our IT wizard mentioned this website which is an amazing collection of mathematical goodness.

You can type in any equation and get it solved with steps here:
http://www.wolframalpha.com/

Or if you go to the examples, you can pick something you would like to learn about (to study for example hint hint) and have a play with changing up the numbers in the example questions.
http://www.wolframalpha.com/examples/Math.html

There’s even a spot where you can get them to generate problems for you to practise online with feedback – this is not free but you can get a 7 day trial, just in time for exam study.

So sit back, relax and play with Maths this holiday!!!

Would you be willing to exchange your clothing for plumage?

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Ever heard of  ‘Transhumanism‘?Lucy Glendining sculpture of feathered child

Over the past few years, a new paradigm for thinking about humankind’s future has begun to take shape among some leading computer scientists, neuroscientists, nanotechnologists and researchers at the forefront of technological development.

 “Transhumanism”  is the name for a new way of thinking that challenges the premiss that the human condition is and will remain essentially unalterable.

 `Transhumanists’ say this  assumption no longer holds true. Arguably it has never been true. They argue that such innovations as speech, written language, printing, engines, modern medicine and computers have had a profound impact not just on how people live their lives, but on who and what they are.

What might happen in the next  20, 50, 100 years ?

A new book entitled  the The Proactionary Imperative presents a  the cultural, intellectual and ethical `justification’ for the emerging  transhumanist movement and in so doing paints an ethically  challenging and scary scenario for  the future of the human race?

“Fancy living forever, or uploading your mind to the net? The Proactionary Imperative embraces transhumanist dreams, but reminds why we need medical ethics”.

The blog post… of SCIENCE!!!

Friday, August 1st, 2014 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Bill-Nye-640x350I am outting myself here as a huge nerd from childhood. When I was growing up I used to LOVE watching Bill Nye the Science Guy on TV. I actually think at one stage I even wrote him a fan letter because I wanted to do exactly what he did when I grew up. He made Science look so fun and cool.

Flash forward to the other day when I was watching Epic Rap Battles: Sir Isaac Newton vs Bill Nye and my Year 13 girls actually asked me who is Bill Nye the Science Guy (insert startled look and gasp here). After I recovered from the shock I set about looking for some old episodes and found this:

Bill Nye Archive for Education on YouTube. Full episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy! These are suitable definitely for junior school but my seniors enjoy them as a treat for times like when we are about to start a new topic and I want them to just think about the bigger picture rather than the maths and details.

Calling all Biologists…Chemists…and maybe even Physicists

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Daniel has posted a great question on  the
Knowledge Forum Biology Curriculum: Human Evolution   Discussion View:LifeSpiral2

Q: What are the best examples in the world today that support the
theory of evolution
?

 

I’m putting the challenge out there for you all.

This is a great opportunity to get back into Knowlege Forum with a topic at the heart of the biology curriculum.

Is the evidence all  from Biology? 

If you have forgotten how to log-in   to Knowledge Forum and build on a post we will be putting  up  a  link to refresher tutorial very soon but flick us an email in meantime and we’ll get you in there right away.

PS When you get into the  Knowledge Forum – Biology Curriculum: Human Evolution View you are looking the build-on the post  titled ‘Support’ on the far right of the Discussion View.

Update on Eureka! Awards & New Scholarships

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Eureka header_2013

Date change for Eureka! entries.

After the success of the regional workshops, and taking into account the fact that students entering the Eureka! Sir Paul Callaghan Awards do not have to submit a video this year, it has been decided that the deadline for the entries into the competition will be extended. Students will now be allowed to submit entries until 5pm on Sunday the 15th of June.

Students must still submit their entry on the Eureka! website,eureka.org.nz  and email the synopsis of their idea and how they plan to present it. They have already received a number of entries and the regional competitions are shaping up to be great events.

Another addition to the Eureka! Sir Paul Callaghan Awards in 2014 is the introduction of scholarships. These scholarships will be awarded to any of the students in the top 28 who are eligible for selection for the national finals. More details on these scholarships will be released soon.

Eureka mailing address is:
Rotary Club of Wellington
PO Box 10243
Wellington, Wellington 6043
New Zealand

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More on `Bad Science’

Monday, April 28th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Ben Goldacre is a doctor, academic, campaigner and writer whose work focuses on uses and misuses of science and statistics by journalists, politicians, drug companies and alternative therapists.Ben Goldacre

His first book Bad Science reached #1 in the UK non-fiction charts and has sold over half a million copies worldwide. His second book Bad Pharma discusses problems in medicine, focusing on missing trials, badly designed research, and biased dissemination of evidence. He wrote the Bad Science column for a decade in the UK Guardian newspaper, and has written for the Times, the Telegraph, the Mail, the New York Times, the BMJ, and more, alongside presenting documentaries for the BBC.

 From:  http://www.badscience.net/about-dr-ben-goldacre/

Check out his  TED talk from 2011- Battling Bad Science.

http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_goldacre_battling_bad_science

His topic aside note how by simply  talking about what he knows, driven by the passion and enthusiasm he has for his topic,  he has  no need for speech notes and rote learning of his speech

Spotting Bad Science

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

I came across  this the other day  in a post  from a friend who works in the health sector  in Scotland and thought it might be useful in honing your analytical and critical thinking skills

List of 10 things to look out for when deciding  whether reported science in valid or not

The vast majority of people will get their science news from online news site articles, and rarely delve into the research that the article is based on. It is  therefore important that people are capable of spotting bad scientific methods, or realising when articles are being economical with the conclusions drawn from research, and that’s what this graphic aims to do. Note that this is not a comprehensive overview, nor is it implied that the presence of one of the points noted automatically means that the research should be disregarded. This is merely intended to provide a rough guide to things to be alert to when either reading science articles or evaluating research.
From
http://www.compoundchem.com/2014/04/02/a-rough-guide-to-spotting-bad-science/

Spotting-Bad-Science  Poster PDF

PS Teachers:  Check out the their infographics page for some interesting and informative posters you can download:
http://www.compoundchem.com/downloads/

 

Spotted a fin in the water? Maybe it’s the Shark Competition coming your way!!

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 | EMILY HALL | Comments Off on Spotted a fin in the water? Maybe it’s the Shark Competition coming your way!!

sharkSharklab ’14: Why Sharks Matter

What’s happening?

Scientists study many things, from the smallest cell to the farthest galaxies. And somewhere in between is the study of one of our greatest predators – the shark. Many scientists, like marine explorer and Science Festival guest Ryan Johnson, study great white sharks in an effort to understand them better. He also spends a lot of time talking to people and making documentaries about sharks and to teach us how important they are.

We want the next generation of science story tellers: the challenge is to show people why it’s important to learn about sharks, and to tell that story in an exciting and creative new way.

You are in charge, so how you tell the story is up to you.

What’s up for grabs

We’ll get you geared up for more outdoor fun: The winners of each category will take home a brand new GoPro outdoor camera kit valued at $800!

How much time do I have?

The competition runs from April 7th until midnight on June 22nd, 2014.

Now get started!

Cool resource for Physics and Chemistry

Monday, March 31st, 2014 | EMILY HALL | Comments Off on Cool resource for Physics and Chemistry

websiteI ran across this website a couple of years ago but for some reason didn’t use it at all.

http://www.gpb.org/chemistry-physics

On the site is a complete course in Chemistry and a complete course in Physics for high school level in Georgia, USA. They consist of a series of videos, one on each topic listed with note taking guides and study guides. The videos are only about half an hour long and come with a problem set based on the video.

I am going to trial one of these in class today and also show the girls the link in the hopes that they might use the videos at home for their own revision. I was thinking too it might be a good activity for them if I am away so they can still move forward with their learning even when I am not there. We have a set of netbooks they can use and watch the material on their own if the reliever doesn’t have a laptop to show the whole class at once.

Happy Birthday Alessandro Volta!

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

VoltaHappy Birthday Alessandro Volta!! Who the heck was he you ask?  Well, the clue is in the name. The unit for electric potential, electric potential difference and emf are all Volts which comes from Volta. Volta made the Voltaic pile which in an improved form is known today as the battery!! Watch this cool movie from some lads at MIT to find out more about how he made this discovery.

Alessandro Volta Video

Once you’ve seen the video, look online for some pictures of the modern battery which, on the inside, all look much the same as the voltaic pile.

Finally, You can make your own voltaic pile at home using some copper/zinc coins alternated with some paper towel soaked in vinegar or lemon juice. You will need to use non NZ coins or old coins though as the current 10 cent piece is copper and steel! Also give the coins a sand to expose the zinc insides to the weak acid. Attaching your pile of 7 or so coins to an LED should bring forth light!! Of course you can always go the other route and get yourself a handy potato clock – same principle!

potatoClockpotatoClock2 

When one door closes, another opens….

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Or something like that anyway. As you all know, we are rapidly approach the end of the school year, and the end of secondary schooling for the majority of our 2013 intake. Next year our 2013-ers will be off at University, Polytech, gap years, working and more! If you are off to University though, consider this tool for helping you choose a major to focus on. No Major Drama. Yes it is an odd time to be thinking about University but it only takes a few minutes and could be a fun yet useful little exam break (although my top degree path came out as Medicine followed by Dentistry at number 2 and Physics all the way down at number 11!)

Remeber to study hard, make sure to schedule in some breaks, and if you need help, we are only and email/phonecall away 🙂

– Emily

 

Science vs Anti-science: Is it that simple?

Friday, October 4th, 2013 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

When discussing  science communication the crusade is often seen as scientists or science believers  striving to convince/convert  anti-scientists  of/to the `truth’ of  their science. 

 

An all too prevalent approach is embodied in  a maxim along the lines of  if you meet resistance to science, throw facts at those who resist. If that doesn’t work, throw more facts at them, and throw them harder.

 

From a  look around the world at current controversial scientific issues it is evident that this approach is not working. 

In this  article  To change anti-science activists’ minds, go beyond science, Rod Lamberts from Australian Center for Public Awareness of Science at ANU gives four suggestions for  scientists to ponder on.

http://theconversation.com/to-change-anti-science-activists-minds-go-beyond-science-18519 

Food for thought ?

 

 

Biology resource from OUASSA teacher PD!

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Thanks again to Susan Yardley for her engaging presentation about her Endeavour Scholarship work last night. If you missed the presentation, you can find it here: https://connect.otago.ac.nz/p8ffdabve7k/

Also if you would like to check out the resource she developed, you can find it here: http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/resources/identification/plants/styx-mill-biodiversity

 

What does a Scientist look like??

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Do a google image search for Scientist and you get a lot of images that look like this guy in the picture. Although I was somewhat heartnened to see that some were women, by far the vast majority were men and most were white. Somewhat foolishly, I then google image searched Physicist and it was white males as far as the eye could see. I’m not sure why I didn’t see that one coming.

The first day of class in my Year 12 Physics class every year, I always get the students to draw a Physicist. Because I am in a girls’ school and 3/4 of the Science department are female, you’d expect to see lots of women in the mix, but year after year I get pictures like the one on the left. We then go through the exercise of talking about Physicists who are not stereotypical in an attempt to get them to see that Physicists are real people and that anyone, including them, can be one.

I recently ran across this http://lookslikescience.tumblr.com/ and had to share it. Allie Wilkinson, an American journalist, solicits pictures and short bios from anyone doing Science who wants to submit. The result is a collection of people of all ages, ethnicities and genders doing Science but also dancing, skating, running, being human.

Definitely going to show this one to my classes and hopefully it will help them see Science not as some unreachable thing but something that is accessible to people just like them.

Fun Friday Films!!

Friday, April 19th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

The school holidays are upon us and while you students are busy with work, fun and hopefully some study, I’m sure there’ll be times when you think to yourself “boy, I could sure do with a serving of Science right now!”. Well you are in luck because someone recently suggested one of these 3 minute films to me and I found myself watching more and more of them. And for teachers, I showed a couple to my class yesterday at the end of the period and they really enjoyed it. They are interesting little snippets that can serve as a good starting point for discussion and only 3 minutes long so not a huge investment of time.
http://focusforwardfilms.com/ is the website
This one http://focusforwardfilms.com/films/78/you-don-t-know-jack appealed to the students as it is about a 14 year old boy who makes a breakthrough in cancer testing.
My 10 year old son was particularly fascinated with this one: http://focusforwardfilms.com/films/30/solar-roadways where they talk about a new way to “pave” the road with solar cells!

Anyway I’ve managed to watch maybe 1/2 dozen of the films on here and haven’t yet found one that I didn’t think was cool on some level.

Another film site that I’ve been sent at least 3 times in the last little while is one by astronaut Chris Hadfield on the ISS.
http://www.youtube.com/user/canadianspaceagency?feature=watch
He has videos on all kinds of things from making a sandwich in space, to sleeping in space, toothbrushing in space to wringing out a washcloth in space!! Again cool Science of everyday objects and good starting point for discussion! I really hate flying but Chris Hadfield makes me want to be an astronaut it looks like the most amazing “job” ever!!

Have a happy safe holiday to all the students and teachers!!

Grab a steaming cup of 1,3,7-Trimethyl-3,7-dihydro-1H-purine-2,6-dione…

Friday, April 12th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

So this week I went looking for some cool chemistry resources. I stumbled into the Royal Society Chemistry page and found a couple of things I thought were really cool!

First – Feb 2016 marks 175 years of the Society and one of the things they are doing is a 175 faces of Chemistry. Little bios of Chemists and their lives. They reminded me a little of the Applications books where they use a real life example of someone doing something cool to explain some Science and I thought maybe they could be useful to get kids thinking about the relevance of Chemistry to them. The one I thought was super cool was a high school Chemistry teacher turned Fireworks guru – insert explosive learning puns here! Anyway – check them out: http://www.rsc.org/Membership/175-faces-of-chemistry/

Also on the website, they have resources for teachers, I took a quick stroll through those and I am going to use the one about the 100m race and acid/base chem in my Year 10 class next term. They are nice because they are ready to go ppt and notes with worksheet etc but also I was thinking with the 100m one it is loose enough we can add in some things as we go. All their resources are here: http://www.rsc.org/learn-chemistry/resource/listing?searchtext=&fcategory=all&filter=all&Audience=AUD00000001&displayname=teachers

And finally, the part of the site that dragged me furthest away from any useful work and perhaps proved to myself yet again what a massive nerd I am was the ChemSpider. This is the neatest little tool – you type in the name of a chemical (it was almost morning tea time so I started with caffiene) and it gives you the name, formula, 2d and 3d pictures as well as links to papers written about your substance of choice and all kinds of other useful information. Very easy to spend a lot of time in here exploring chemicals around us!! Fall down that particular rabbit hole here: http://www.chemspider.com/

And that is all from me for now, I have to get back to chemspider!!!

 

Phun Physics Phriday resource…

Friday, April 5th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Quickie post to share this resource from IOP. Every day this term I have been writing on the whiteboard in my classroom a “Tody in Physics” that I found from the IOP website. (http://www.iop.org/resources/day/index.html) The students enjoy seeing what has happened “on this day” and the couple of times I haven’t gotten around to updating it they complain!! We’ve also had some good discussion come from them asking questions about what exactly the discovery means or who that person is or why would anyone want to know that? 🙂

If you have some time – make sure you take a look at the rest of the IOP website – there is a lot of good stuff there about teaching/promoting Physics.

Hope the short week was good to you!

Emily

The Dawn of De-extinction. Are you ready?

Friday, March 15th, 2013 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

“Throughout humankind’s history, we’ve driven species after species extinct: the passenger pigeon, the Eastern cougar, the dodo … A colour collage of threatened species

But now, says Stewart Brand, we have the technology (and the biology) to bring back species that humanity wiped out. So — should we? Which ones? ”

Check out  Stewart Brand’s TED  Talk here at

http://www.ted.com/talks/stewart_brand_the_dawn_of_de_extinction_are_you_ready.html 

 Is it the answer to every conservationist’s prayer?

Or,
As Barry Hillman  muses in  on one of  the responses,
“Sure, we have a responsibility to un-do the damage we’ve done,let’s try to change our thinking and become a more caring society that has no need to damage our world and then we can spend more of our valuable and limited time on earth creating instead of repairing.”

What do you think? 

There’s a follow-up here, a panel video discussion `hot off the  press’  from March 15th  :  http://tedxdeextinction.org/ 

(OUASSA students: You can now comment on our Blog-posts,  but after clicking ` Comment’ box, you will have to sign-in using your Otago University login given  to you at the January camp)

Friday – Fall Further down the rabbit hole…

Friday, February 22nd, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

I ran across these little Physics related videos the other day. Each one is only about a minute long so a nice little break. They are also aimed at presenting ideas rather than answering questions so could be a good way to stimulate a discussion or a starting point for more research. Cute and accessible for many year levels. Access the videos here.

Have an explore of the site while you are there – they have some other resources online mostly related to quantum physics. I also liked this one which explains some “big ideas” in an accessible way.

Have a great weekend!

 

Antikythera – science in action in ancient Greece

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

Well, January camp is officially over and what a time we had! Much Science was done, friends were made and we all had a great time. Also have to give a huge shout out to our green shirt team who kept camp running smoothly and campers in line and on time! Students need to remember to check into Knowledge Forum at least once a week and post your thoughts on the questions. If you have any questions or have trouble with Knowledge Forum then let me know ouassa@otago.ac.nz.
On another note I was watching a documentary on the History Channel last night about the world’s oldest computer. This is amazing – a piece of technology that dates back to 1BC that was used to count through lunar and solar years and predict both lunar and solar eclipses. The amount of mechanism, thought and observation that must have gone into this is incredible – and it was done in 1BC!!! The ability of the ancient Greeks to calculate precisely how many teeth to cut into the gear wheels and how to fit them together still amazes me. It makes me wonder , if they could create that with the limited amount of technology they had available to them, what kinds of amazing things will we be able to do in the future?

If you want to read more about the actual device, you can go to this website. I also found a youtube movie of an engineer who worked up a model of the device in his spare time using tools and parts that would have been available to the ancient Greeks watch it here.

That is not the end of the story though – the device was found over 100 years ago but although some analysis could be done, scientists were left to guess about what it was actually for. It has only been very recently that we have had the technology to enable an in depth analysis to be carried out. A special X-ray analysis machine was actually built specifically for the purpose of trying to see the device’s internal structure. Techniques for photographing and analysing paintings were used to finally allow detailed observation of writing on the surface of the instrument.

This whole story gives us a wonderful example of the discovery, investigation and observation at the heart of any science. Also, it illustrates the evolution of science as we go from educated guesses 100 years ago of what was almost a black box, to detailed 3d images of the interior of device today. Many scientists worked on the project, making predictions, testing, retesting, and fine tuning their ideas based on evidence. One scientist in the documentary talked about a colossal mistake he had made early on in the project which meant he had to go back and re think and re test his original predictions in light of observation not fitting with his original ideas.

As you head back to school this week and next remember your time at OUASSA and what you have learned but the most important things to remember are to be curious, ask questions, observe and experiment with the world around you. Work hard and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Yes, you may not succeed in everything you try but often our best lessons are learned when we look back at our failures.

Look forward to seeing you all on KF soon!

Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine 2012: stem cell research

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

This year’s Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine goes to two researchers for their work on induced pluripotent stem cells or IPSCs.  The Prize recognises the achievements of the two researchers in this promising field of science – one of whom first published on the subject 50 years ago.

IPSCs are formed from mature body cells that have been effectively ‘reprogramed’ to a pluripotent state so that they resemble the cells in an early embryo.  Early embryonic stem cells are pluripotent and so have the highest potency of any stem cells.  This means that (under the right conditions) they are able to develop or differentiate into any type of cell.

Many medical researchers think that stem cells have a lot of potential for therapeutic uses such as tissue repair, regeneration and replacement, as well as providing a source of human cells for experimentation, investigating cellular processes and modelling the action of drugs.  Early research into pluripotent stem cells involved the use of early human embryoes.  IPSCs are of significant interest in medical science as they could provide pluripotent stem cells from a non-embyronic source.

Read about this exciting story of stem cell research at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121008082955.htm

Clambake Extinctions, Volcanic Deccan Pies & Demise of Dinosaurs

Friday, September 14th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

“Most researchers think the dinosaurs, many plants on land, and much of the life in thePainting showing dinosaur in landscape and comet hurtling through sky above sea succumbed to a huge cosmic impact 65.5 million years ago. But new evidence from the sea floor just off Antarctica points to a major extinction there a geologic moment before the impact. The culprit in this earlier cataclysm may well have been humongous volcanic eruptions in India—the same eruptions that some researchers have credited with wiping out the dinosaurs.”

Read the full story here
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6100/1280.full

Gene mutation events linked to ‘milestones’ in human evolution

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

In the third online OUASSA biology tutorial I introduced the idea that a type of chromosomal mutation known as gene duplication may be important in “providing evolution some spare genes to play with”.

Many scientists think that gene duplications have contributed to some evolutionary changes, from the evolution of antifreeze proteins in polar fish (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110112122511.htm), the divesification of a group of calcium binding polypeptides in vertebrates that are important in tooth and bone formation and production of milk and salivary proteins in mammals (http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/2/1/15), to the evolution of true trichromatic colour vision in African apes. (http://anthro.palomar.edu/primate/color.htm; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10413401).

A lovely example of the role of gene duplication in evolution for Level 3/Scholarship Biology – that is truly relevant to us all in the widest possible sense – can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21777-the-humanity-switch-how-one-gene-made-us-brainier.html.  This article tells the story of how the repeated duplication of a gene involved in neural development may have been involved in two major advances in brain cell organisation and thinking power that correlate with some big leaps forward in our own biological evolution.  Enjoy!  Darren.

Ever wondered how we know so much about genetics? “DNA from the Beginning” tells the stories of the experiments behind the biology.

Thursday, August 16th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

“DNA from the Beginning” is a fantastic resource that tells the stories of the science and scientists  that have helped to build our knowledge of DNA and genetics:

Explore http://www.dnaftb.org/

It is packed with great animations, stories, activities, quizzes and summaries of key concepts, and is ideal for anyone studying 90715 “Describe the role of DNA in relation to gene expression”.  10/10! – Darren

Follow your `Curiosity’

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Here’s one for all you fans of  extra-terrestrial science

NASA’s most ambitious mission to Mars is landing August 5, 2012.

“The rover, nicknamed Curiosity, has a greater range than any rover before and it carries an impressive array of science instruments. It will explore terrain on Mars where water once flowed, searching for evidence of life.”

Check  out this cool 5 min video from The Futures Channel website
http://www.thefutureschannel.com/dockets/realworld/mars_science_lab/

Tune into the landing on August 5th
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/participate/

Great resource for Processes and Patterns of Evolution

Thursday, July 19th, 2012 | smida55p | No Comments

This is a one of my favourite websites for simple, clear and valid content for learning about evolutionary processes and patterns from Berkeley:

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/index.shtml

Heaps of wonderful images, explanations and examples for revision or note-taking.

Physics at the University of Otago & Physics World

Friday, July 13th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

For those of you interested, here is the link to the physics outreach page at the University of Otago.  There are useful links aimed at teachers but these links will also be useful to many of our OUASSA students also.  http://www.physics.otago.ac.nz/node/89 –

Physics World has published its Physics and Sport issue in the run-up to the Olympics. It can be downloaded for free for a limited (but unspecified) time from http://physicsworld.com/cws/download/jul2012.

 

“Chemistry Matters” – Once more into the world of hydronium and logarithm; but never mind the mole

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Once more into the world of hydronium and logarithm; but never mind the mole

By Associate Professor Allan Blackman
This article was orignally published in the Otago Daily Times on Wednesday 4 July 2012.

<!–Tel: +64  3  479 7931

–><!–Location: Science II, 5n4

–><!–blackman@chemistry.otago.ac.nz

–>

Last month I attempted to explain the meaning of pH in around 500 words. To my chagrin, I found that this was an impossible task. The column was littered with arcane terms like ‘hydronium ion’ and ‘logarithm’, and numbers like 0.0000001 and 1 × 10-7, things that do not make for easy reading. So let’s take up where I left off and see if I can’t do a better job in explaining what pH actually means.

What was hopefully obvious from last month’s column was that pH is far from a simple concept. For starters, it is a logarithmic function. In simple terms, this means that a change of 1 pH unit corresponds to a 10-fold change in the hydronium ion concentration – at the risk of upsetting the chemistry purists, one could say that a solution of pH 3 is 10 times as acidic as one of pH 4. To put this in a more understandable context, suppose we had 1 litre of a solution of pH 3 – if we added 9 litres of water to this (i.e. a 10-fold dilution) the final solution would have a pH of 4.

The useful pH scale ranges from 0 (a very acidic solution) to 14 (a very basic solution). Because of its logarithmic nature, this means that it spans a hydronium ion concentration range of 1 × 1014, or 100,000,000,000,000, between these pH values. To give some idea of the pH values of common substances, lemon juice, for example, has a pH around 2.3, orange juice, around 3.5, milk, around 6.7, seawater, around 8, household ammonia, around 11.5, and oven cleaner can be as high as 13, depending on its composition. Although it is supposedly common knowledge that pure water at 25 °C has a pH of 7.00, measurement of the pH of a sample of any water under all but the most stringently controlled conditions will yield a value somewhere between 5 and 6; this is because the water sample will contain dissolved carbon dioxide from the air, which renders the water very slightly acidic through formation of small amounts of ‘carbonic acid’.

So this is where we get to the importance of pH. Nature has evolved so that many of its important chemical reactions, particularly those that occur in living systems, are optimised to occur at particular pH values. If the pH of the system becomes too high or too low, then critical chemical reactions are impeded, and this can be fatal for the organism. For example, normal human blood has a pH between 7.35 and 7.45 – if our blood pH lowered to 7 or increased to 8, we would probably die. Nature has therefore developed a series of chemical species we call buffers, which ensure that the pH of blood does not change significantly.

Sadly, despite all I have written here, a true appreciation of exactly what pH means is contingent on understanding the mole, a chemical concept which is usually first introduced in 6th form (Year 12) Chemistry and is not necessarily understood by all even when University rolls around. My explanation of pH has only scratched the surface and is extremely simplistic – but hopefully it had given you some idea of what pH is all about.

Of course, the fact that pH is conceptually difficult doesn’t stop advertisers telling us that their clients’ products are ‘pH balanced’ ‘pH neutralising’, and other such meaningless terms. Treat all such claims with caution.

Request for July Camp

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Dear Students/Schools,
The Otago University Advanced School Sciences Academy has commissioned Rakesh Pandey (Director of Big Picture Learning) to work with students and Teachers attending the July session.
He will be demonstrating how to maximise study productivity in a consistent, clear manner so that all students can get the highest grades in their NCEA exams they are capable of.
In preparation for the Sciences Academy, Rakesh would ideally like all of your students attending to do the following:
·      Bring any revision books and notes that students have done for all of their externals.
·      Download and ideally print the last 5 years of exam papers and schedules for each of their subjects’ achievement standards from the NZQA website.
·      Download and print one 2011 exam report for each subject from the NZQA website.
·      Go to studyit.org.nz and print the subject content summaries for each of their achievement standards.
Please acknowledge to theteam@motiv8.co.nz that students who are attending have received this important information.
If your school is interested in finding out about Big Picture Learning and what services they offer, please email them at theteam@motiv8.co.nz and they will send you information on a new cloud-based NCEA revision tool that is about to be released.
Big Picture Learning
5 View St.
Dunedin
New Zealand
Ph./Fax: 64 3 477 2888
www.activ8.co.nz
Description: email

Science Competition: Comvita Science Video Challenge

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

If  you haven’t already seen this competition, the Comvita Science Video Challenge is a fun way to learn and communicate science for the Year  9-10 science students. All they need to do is create and submit a 3 minute video explaining how some healthy food ingredients impact on people’s health. 
Details of the completion are herehttp://www.comvitasciencechallenge.co.nz/

NZ International Biology Olympiad Registration, Now Open!

Monday, June 11th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

 In 2014, New Zealand will be hosting the 25th International Biology Olympiad: the world’s top biology educators and secondary school biology students will converge on the University of Waikato for a week of intense academic effort – but there’ll also be time for making new friends, sharing ideas, and experiencing some of what New Zealand has to offer. “The lead-up to this event will involve a huge amount of work,’ says NZIBO Chair Dr Angela Sharpies, “and we’re very keen for more teachers and academics to join the NZIBO committee and become involved with this awesome event.”
On-line registration for the 2013 NZIBO programme is now open at www.nzibo.org.
For students whose schools have never participated in NZIBO, the fee is $15 per student, while the cost for students from schools that have been involved is $30.
All Year 11 and Year 12 biology students are encouraged to enrol.
Registrations close on the 1st of August and the entrance exam will be held in the fourth week of Term 3 on Wednesday August 8, 2012.
The two hour long, multi-choice exam consists of a series of questions designed to test students thinking and problem solving skills.
The NZIBO programme is an excellent opportunity for Gifted and Talented biology students.
Following the initial exam, approximately 60 students will be invited to enter the tutorial programme.
Full details of the scheme with costs can be found on the NZIBO website.
In 2013, the International Biology Olympiad will be held in Bern, Switzerland. For further information, please contact the NZIBO secretary, Dr H Meikle, at: nzibo.register@gmail.com.
Jessie McKenzie Teaching and Learning Specialist——————————————————————————————The Royal Society of New ZealandDDI: +64 4 4705 789 | MOB: +64 21 254 9114 |  SKYPE: jessie.mckenzie.rsnz 4 Halswell Street, Thorndon, PO Box 598, Wellington 6140, New Zealandwww.royalsociety.org.nz

New OUASSA Staff Member

Friday, June 8th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Hi everyone

My name is Darren Smith.

I’ve just joined the OUASSA team and will be helping out Kate and Steve for the rest of the year.

I’m a biology teacher and the sea has always been my playground, passion and study – and has been since I was old enough to gut a fish and focus a microscope. I have a Masters degree in marine biology and have worked on science research projects looking at the effects of nutrient enrichment on coral reefs and fishing impacts on seafloor communities. I’m also really into sharks, but hopefully not as a potential prey item!

I’m here to help you get the most out of your OUASSA experience and am really looking forward to reading your posts on Knowledge Forum and helping you find the answers to your biology curriculum questions. I’ve been following your progress on KF and have made a few posts on the Marine Science Project A, so maybe take an opportunity for a look. 

See you all soon at the July OUASSA camp for an awesome week of fun, challenging and rewarding science!

Solar Landfills: The future?

Friday, May 25th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

An innovative  approach to alternative energy
Using landfills to generate solar power.
Mark Roberts of HDR Engineering is working on two of these solar landfill projects in Texas and Georgia.

Have a listen to the 7 min audio clip below from Radio NZ National’s ` This Way Up’ programme.  ( Scroll down to `Solar Landfill’)
 http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thiswayup/20120519

 and check out the detail on this website
http://www.waste-management-world.com/index/display/article-display/0438199780/articles/waste-management-world/volume-11/issue-6/features/solar-landfills-the-future.html

Why don’t parts of standing waves form in open pipes?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 | EMILY HALL | No Comments

At school today we were looking at the different harmonics and how they set up in strings, open and closed pipes. One of the students asked a cool question. He could see the closed pipe and string examples where there was “something” at the end of the length to reflect the wave, but didn’t understand why the waves would set up in the open pipe since it was open at both ends. Why didn’t the wave “fall out” the ends of the pipe? Or set up only partly in the tube and partly in the air or whatever medium was outside? Well, the answer is to do with the fact that although in the Year 13 book we are using at my school, and in most texts, the wave is represented as transverse, it is actually a longitudinal wave. This means that it is compressing and rarefacting in the pipe. The pressure at the ends of the pipe come in to play because the wave is setting up between these two areas of pressure which kind of act like the ends of the string. This is a pretty easy to read explanation of what is going on here. Also there’s a whole course of Physics lectures from MIT on waves online here. video 9 is where he goes into fundementals, harmonics and relates it to musical instruments.

2012 International Science Festival

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

About the festival

From the strange to the serious, the NZ International Science Festival brings Dunedin alive this winter. With everything from hands on workshops for the kids through to the science behind why we take risks and international guest speakers there will be something for all ages. At times you’ll be shocked, scared or surprised as we bring a side to science that you’ve never seen before

When: 30th June through to 8th July

Check out the website:  http://www.scifest.org.nz/

You will also see information about the Science Idol competition on this site – you may even recognise Tom McFadden (one of our most memorable greenshirt helpers!).  Tom is touring nationally at the moment so keep an eye out as he may even be coming to a school near you!

“Chemistry Matters” – Radioactivity in you and me

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Radioactivity in you and me

By Associate Professor Allan Blackman.  This article was orignally published in the Otago Daily Times on Friday 18 May 2012.

Late last month, a soccer ball that had washed up on Middleton Island in the Gulf of Alaska, was discovered by a technician at the radar station there. The ball was found to have come from a school in Japan, some 6000 km away, which was struck by the Tsunami of March 11th, 2011. In addition to the enormous amount of debris swept into the Pacific Ocean, the Tsunami also caused extensive damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and released significant amounts of radioactive material into the environment.

It is a tragedy that the cities of Fukushima, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Chernobyl will for ever be associated with the word “radioactivity”. It is, in my opinion, fair to say that a significant number of people think of radioactivity as resulting solely from the actions of human beings, by way of nuclear power stations or nuclear weapons, and that it didn’t exist prior to the 20th century. So it may come as some surprise to you that your body, my body, and, indeed, the bodies of everybody on planet Earth, are teeming with radioactive atoms, the majority of which derive from a natural source – the element potassium.

Potassium (elemental symbol K) is an essential element for life. Humans require around two to four grams a day, and this is generally obtained from such foods as potatoes, spinach and bananas. But it turns out that, of all the potassium atoms we ingest, a small percentage are radioactive. Natural potassium consists of three isotopes, 39K, 40K and 41K. All three contain 19 positively-charged protons in their nucleus, but differ in the number of neutrons – 20, 21 and 22, respectively. The 40K isotope is radioactive, and comprises about 0.012% of all the atoms of potassium on Earth. It has a half-life of just over one billion years, meaning that one half of any sample of 40K will disappear over this time, and it decays by emitting beta particles and gamma rays, both of which are potentially harmful to humans.

An ‘average’ 75 kg person contains about 150 g of potassium. Of that 150 g, 0.018 g is due to the radioactive 40K isotope. This might not sound much, but when this mass is converted to an actual number of atoms, we find that it corresponds to about 270,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms of radioactive potassium in the body. That’s a lot. Given the billion year half-life of this isotope, you might perhaps expect that not many of these atoms would decay over our lifetime, but again, you may be surprised to find that around 7000 40K atoms decay per second. Each of these decays can potentially lead to DNA mutation, and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it! Obviously it is impossible for us to gauge the health effects of these radioactive decays, as it’s rather difficult to prepare a potassium-free human.

Like it or not, natural radioactivity, whether it be in the form of 40K, the most abundant radioactive isotope in the body, 14C, which we ingest primarily through breathing in 14CO2 from the air, or literally hundreds of other radioactive isotopes, is ubiquitous, and will always be with us – well, at least for the next few billion years, anyway.

Scholarship Opportunity – Engineering Technology 2013

Friday, May 18th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

As part of the Maintenance Engineering Society of New Zealand’s objective to encourage New Zealand students into tertiary education in the field of engineering technology, a MESNZ Engineering Scholarship worth up to $5,000 is being offered for the specific purpose of covering tuition fees in 2013.  This scholarship is available to assist students commencing study towards an IPENZ accredited engineering degree, diploma or certificate from any year level through a New Zealand University, Polytechnic or Industry Training Organisation.  Exemplar qualifications include Bachelor of Engineering or Bachelor of Engineering Technology degrees, National or New Zealand Diplomas in Engineering and the National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering (Maintenance Engineering).
Applications are now being sought from candidates interested in maintenance engineering as a career.
Please would you forward the attached information sheet and application form to any final year students at your school who may be considering, or you think may be interested in, study towards a relevant engineering qualification.  Please note that applications close on 31 August 2011.
Further details are available on the MESNZ website http://www.mesnz.org.nz/scholarship/

Seven Equations that Changed the World

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Having trouble  seeing the relevance of all those formulae  in maths?

“THE alarm rings. You glance at the clock. The time is 6.30 am. You haven’t even got out of bed, and already at least six mathematical equations have influenced your life. The memory chip that stores the time in your clock couldn’t have been devised without a key equation in quantum mechanics. Its time was set by a radio signal that we would never have dreamed of inventing were it not for James Clerk Maxwell’s four equations of electromagnetism. And the signal itself travels according to what is known as the wave equation.

We are afloat on a hidden ocean of equations. They are at work in transport, the financial system, health and crime prevention and detection, communications, food, water, heating and lighting. Step into the shower and you benefit from equations used to regulate the water supply. Your breakfast cereal comes from crops that were bred with the help of statistical equations. Drive to work and your car’s aerodynamic design is in part down to the Navier-Stokes equations that describe how air flows over and around it. Switching on its satnav involves quantum physics again, plus Newton’s laws of motion and gravity, which helped launch the geopositioning satellites and set their orbits. It also uses random number generator equations for timing signals, trigonometric equations to compute location, and special and general relativity for precise tracking of the satellites’ motion under the Earth’s gravity.

Without equations, most of our technology would never have been invented. Of course, important inventions such as fire and the wheel came about without any mathematical knowledge. Yet without equations we would be stuck in a medieval world.

Equations reach far beyond technology too. Without them, we would have no understanding of the physics that governs the tides, waves breaking on the beach, the ever-changing weather, the movements of the planets, the nuclear furnaces of the stars, the spirals of galaxies – the vastness of the universe and our place within it.

There are thousands of important equations. The seven I focus on here – the wave equation, Maxwell’s four equations, the Fourier transform and Schrödinger’s equation – illustrate how empirical observations have led to equations that we use both in science and in everyday life”.

Intrigued? 

Read  more here.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21328516.600-seven-equations-that-rule-your-world.html

There is a cool  video clip to watch too!

101Science.com

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

http://101science.com/

This website has a huge quantity of resources and links to some really fasinating sites.  This site would be a good go-to site for background science reading, information gathering and for studying just some of what you will be covering in your classes.

The site covers Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Electronics and even Photography.

Was Human Evolution Caused by Climate Change ?

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Neanderthals at the cave site of Trou Al'Wesse in Belgium, clinging on as climate deteriorated. (Credit: Digital painting by James Ives)

Neanderthals at the cave site of Trou Al'Wesse in Belgium, clinging on as climate deteriorated. (Credit: Digital painting by James Ives)

Although an African origin of the modern human species is generally accepted, the evolutionary processes involved in the speciation, geographical spread, and eventual extinction of archaic humans outside of Africa are much debated. An additional complexity has been the recent evidence of limited interbreeding between modern humans and the Neandertals and Denisovans (a newly discovered group from Siberia). Modern human migrations and interactions began during the buildup to the Last Glacial Maximum, starting about 100,000 years ago. By examining the history of other organisms through glacial cycles, valuable models for evolutionary biogeography can be formulated. According to one such model, the adoption of a new refugium by a subgroup of a species may lead to important evolutionary changes.

   “Ultimately, this model explains why Homo sapiens as a species are here and the archaic humans are not.” Dr J.R. Stewart

The research also leads to interesting conclusions as to how and why Neanderthals, and indeed the Denisovans, evolved in the first place.

Check out the full article here

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/335/6074/1317.full

An Introduction to Practical Electronics: Resource

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Thanks to Lynne Newell from FutureIntech for this link

http://www.techideas.co.nz/ 

An introduction to Practical Electronics, Microcontrollers and Software Design is a PDF book (800 pages+ and growing)  written by  Bill Collis from Mount Roskill Grammar School for students  who are starting out in electronics. It is based around the PCB CAD software Eagle, the ATMEL AVR microcontroller and the BASCOM-AVR cross compiler. It aims to help students use software like Eagle and Sketchup for their chosen projects, and how to write and plan successful code using statechart principles. There are many examples of block diagrams, circuits, layouts, flowcharts, statecharts and code in the book for many different interfaces and products.

http://www.techideas.co.nz/

Some teams look at the big picture

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

By Associate Professor Allan Blackman
This article was orignally published in the Otago Daily Times
on Saturday 10 March 2012.
blackman@chemistry.otago.ac.nz



My students do little chemistry. By this, I don’t mean to impugn their reputation by suggesting their work habits aren’t all that they could be. Rather, I’m saying that they do chemistry on a small scale. They measure masses in milligrams or grams, and volumes in millilitres whenever they carry out chemical reactions. There is generally no need to work on larger scales, as no new information will be obtained. Financial considerations also often play a part in determining how much material is used in any reaction – chemicals can be surprisingly expensive!

On the other hand, some researchers do big chemistry, whose scale is limited only by their imaginations (and money again, of course). Big chemistry usually requires the collaboration of lots of research groups around the world and is often aimed at addressing big questions. One such example of big chemistry recently resulted in a group based in the Chemistry Department at the University of Otago, along with workers at NIWA in Wellington, winning the Prime Minister’s Science Prize for 2011. The big question these workers addressed was ‘what can we do to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere?’

It is a fact that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are increasing. This could potentially lead to both an increase in the Earth’s temperature, and the oceans becoming more acidic, neither of which would be beneficial to life on this planet. It therefore makes sense to plan for such eventualities, and investigate ways in which carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could be controlled if necessary. And this is where the work of the groups at Otago and NIWA becomes relevant. It had been proposed that phytoplankton in the oceans could potentially absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, the process by which green plants convert carbon dioxide to organic materials and oxygen. While this hypothesis could potentially be tested in the laboratory, it would really take a large scale experiment to demonstrate its viability.

And a large scale experiment it was. Truly big chemistry. It involved seeding a small area of the Southern Ocean with iron (about 1.7 tonnes!), to encourage the growth of phytoplankton, and then monitoring the changes in carbon dioxide levels, using a variety of methods including satellite surveys. You can imagine the wealth of coordination and cooperation required to carry out such a study. The results were interesting; while it was found that enhanced absorption of carbon dioxide into the ocean did occur in the seeded areas, it was also found that the phytoplankton themselves released other potent greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide, into the atmosphere. This demonstrated that such an approach would not be effective at mitigating greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.

This might appear at first sight to be a negative result, but thanks to the big chemistry carried out, we now know that we must look for other ways to avert the deleterious effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The Prime Minister’s Science Prize is worth $500,000. Given that a Nobel Prize is worth $1.8 million, I think that’s pretty generous. Time to get my students working harder…

New study says ancient hominid males stayed home while females roamed

Friday, March 16th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

The males of the two bipedal hominid species that roamed the South African savannah more than a million years ago were stay-at-home kind of guys when compared to the gadabout gals, says a new high-tech study led by the University of Colorado Boulder. Dr Petrus le Roux from the Department of Geological Sciences at UCT was part of a team which studied teeth from a group of extinct Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus individuals from two adjacent cave systems in the Sterkfontein-Swartkrans area in South Africa.

hominiid skullThe research team used high-tech laser ablation mass spectrometry to measure isotope ratios of strontium in the hominid tooth enamel in order to identify specific areas of landscape use. A naturally occurring element, strontium, is found in rocks and soils and is absorbed by plants and animals and becomes incorporated in the enamel of their teeth during development. Since unique strontium signals are tied to specific geological substrates – like granite, basalt, quartzite, sandstone and others, they can be used to reveal landscape conditions where ancient hominids grew up Sandi Copeland, UC Boulder Adjunct Professor and lead study author explains, “The strontium isotope ratios are a direct reflection of the foods these hominids ate, which in turn are a reflection of the local geology”. The researchers found that the strontium isotope signals in half of the female teeth indicated that they were derived from outside the local area, which contrasted with that of the males. In the latter only about ten percent suggested that they were from elsewhere, implying that the males probably grew up and died in the same area. Sandi Copeland said, “One of our goals was to try and find something out about early hominid landscape use. Here we have the first direct glimpse of the geographic movements of early hominids, and it appears the females preferentially moved away from their residential groups.” She said that the new study results were somewhat surprising as they had assumed that more of the hominids would be from non-local areas, as it is generally thought that the evolution of bipedalism was due in part to allow individuals to range longer distances. “Such small home ranges could imply that bipedalism evolved for other reasons”, Copeland said.

Professor Matt Sponheimer, UC-Boulder anthropologist and a co-author of the article, says, “It is difficult enough to work out relations between the sexes today, so the challenges in investigating the ways that male and female hominids used the landscape and formed social groups over a million years ago, are considerable. Disembodied skulls and teeth are notoriously poor communicators, so the real difficulty with a study like this is finding new ways to make these old bones speak”. The female dispersal pattern seen in the two hominid groups is similar to that of many modern humans, chimpanzees and bonobos, but unlike most other primates, including gorillas, where one or two males dominate a group of females, explained Copeland. “This study gets us closer to understanding the social structures of ancient hominids, since we now have a better idea about the dispersal patterns”, she said.

From:

Contact: University of Cape Town, Faculty of Science Newsletter, March 2012, Page 11

Google Science Fair

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

For all of you mad keen scientists (that should be all of you!!!!) here is a link to Googles Science Fair site.  It runs you through all that you need to do to create and complete a science fair project.  Some of you may already have something underway and so keep up the good work.  Good luck and let us know if you are submitting an entry or if you need support with any aspect of your project.

http://www.google.com/intl/en/events/sciencefair/index.html

Excellent Revision Site for Chemistry, Physics & Biology!

Monday, March 12th, 2012 | hamvi58p | 1 Comment

Many of you may already be using this site, but it you are not, then I thoroughlly recommend taking the time to have a look around and print off some of the useful resources within.

Site:  http://www.nobraintoosmall.co.nz/

There are flash cards, revision activities/notes, test yourself activities and powerpoint presentations etc.  The site has been created and is maintained by a group of NZ high school teachers with knowledge and expertise in the NZ curriculum as well as NCEA.

You could even recommend this site to your subject teachers as they too would find it useful.

Teachers – Chemistry support website

Friday, March 9th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

About ChemTeach

This website is designed to be a one stop shop for chemistry teachers. It  contains internal and external assessment resources, teaching resources, news, interesting articles about chemistry in the community or cutting edge research, information about chemistry education initiatives, competitions, links to other useful web pages and you will get rapid responses to chemistry queries via our questions page.

The site is supported by the University of Canterbury Outreach Programme, the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (NZIC) and Victoria University of Wellington.

There is an extensive question and answer archive on the site, courtesy of Ian Torrie. It covers a wide and extensive variety of questions that have been asked by chemistry teachers since the introduction of NCEA. They range from the trivial to the bizarre and while they are not “official” responses in all cases a variety of “expert” and experienced sources have been used to give the best answer available at the time.

http://www.chemteach.ac.nz/whatis.shtml

E-Teaching Weekly

Monday, March 5th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Below is a link to a really useful and interesting website for teachers (and senior managers) in schools.  The e-teaching newsletter is a weekly publication with great strategies for effective classroom engagement and subsequent teaching and learning.  A sample of a recent publication can be seen at the link as well as details outlining subscription costs.

Suggest to your Senior Manager Team or Principal that this publication may be a good one for all classroom teachers in your school to have access to.

http://www.acel.org.au/fileadmin/user_upload/epubs/2011/eTeaching/eTeaching_81_6384.pdf

Science Learning Hub – Teacher Resource

Friday, March 2nd, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Most of you are already likely to be on the email list for The Science Learning Hub. In case you are not, here are the details for you!
(Read their latest newsletter online: www.sciencelearn.org.nz/news_events/latest_newsletter)
Welcome
Kia ora and welcome to the Science Learning Hub newsletter for Term 1, 2012.
Teachers are saying some great things about the Hub!
“Going onto the Science Learning Hub is like getting a nice new glossy magazine. Everything is so beautifully presented.”
“The Hub is teacher friendly and easy to navigate. The topics are relevant and the work has been done for us.”
We encourage you to take the time to explore our site and to get to know the resources that support your teaching of the NZ Science Curriculum. Your comments, questions, ideas and feedback can be emailed to
enquiries@sciencelearn.org.nz.

Chemistry Matters articles

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

“Chemistry Matters” is an ongoing monthly column by Dr Allan Blackman of the University of Otago’s Chemistry Department, on
topical chemistry subjects of interest to the general public, published in the
Otago Daily Times newspaper, and reproduced on the Chemistry Outreach  website. His articles are interesting and are all about chemistry and the world around us.

http://neon.otago.ac.nz/chemistry/magazine

The University of Otago has a great Chemistry Outreach team and on their website you will also find many more useful links to chemistry related topics.

The Deeper Secrets of Rotomahana

Monday, February 27th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

The Deeper Secrets of Rotomahana
This resource has been findly provided by Lynne Newall at Futreintech.  It is suitable for Intermediate – Junior Seconday Science classes. Please share with your Department Colleagues.
In January 2011 a GNS science team investigated Lake Rotomahana near Rotorua, and made some exciting discoveries that had been hidden under the lake for 125 years. In early March 2012 the scientists will be back, hoping to extend their knowledge with more detailed investigations.
Further useful link:
http://www.gns.cri.nz/Home/Learning/Science-Topics/Volcanoes/Secrets-of-Rotomahana/Background-Info

Electronics Teacher PD Opportunities

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Details are outined below for two teacher PD opportunities.
This information was kindly sent to OUASSA by Lynne Newell at Futurentech.
1. NCEA Electronics Level 1 and Level 2 (Digital Technologies- assessed with Achievement Standards)March 19 (Auckland), March 20 (Hamilton), March 22
(Palmerston North), March 23 (Wellington), March 26 (Christchurch), March 28
(Dunedin).
2. NCET Level 3 Electronics (assessed by unit standards
(with A,M,E grades)).
March 1 (Hamilton), March 2 (Auckland), March 8
(Wellington), March 9 (Christchurch).
You are warmly invited to register for either or both of these. These have proved to be popular courses in the past with good fellowship and offer an opportunity to develop hands-on skills, as well discussion as how
to manage assessment.
These courses and course dates are also advertised on our website and also in the next Gazette.

http://www.brightsparks.org.nz/bright-sparks-supports-electronics-teachers/

2012 International & National Science Opportunities

Friday, February 10th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

LONDON INTERNATIONAL YOUTH SCIENCE
FORUM  16 – 30 August 2012.
Open to Yr13 students only
LIYSF 2012 will explore the future developments in the  sciences, with lecture demonstrations, specialist seminars and debates led by a team of scientists and experts and scientific visits. Support will be provided by the Talented School Students Travel Award for most of the international travel, accommodation and registration costs. Students may have to contribute a small percentage
toward this trip. For more information on what is involved in the two week programme please go to
www.liysf.org.uk
USA INTERNATIONAL SPACE CAMP, HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA, (late July) Open to students in Yr 12 or Yr 13 This is an opportunity for two students who have a passion for astronomy to participate in an international gathering, and
experience the advanced space school program at Huntsville, Alabama. If you are involved in an astronomy club then this would be an advantage. Support will be provided by the Talented School Students Travel Award to successful students for most of the international travel costs, registration and accommodation. However students will need to pay a small percentage of their costs.  Students must be studying physics and one other science subject to be eligible to attend. (See below on how to apply)
BIOFUTURES 2011, BRISBANE, 1st or 2nd week in July Open to Yr12 and 13 students Interested in biotechnology and biomedical science?  The Royal Society of New Zealand is offering a opportunity for up to ten students to
attend Biofutures 2012 which takes place in Brisbane in July. This forum will bring together some 80 students from Australia and New Zealand who must be studying Biology and at least one other science subject.
You will participate in a hands-on experience with the
latest biomedical equipment and techniques and hear from some of Australia’s leading researchers.
Support for most of the travel and registration costs will be provided by the Talented School Students Travel Award however the
student will need to fund a small percentage.  Students from New Zealand must
apply and send their application to the Royal Society of New Zealand and not
through Biofutures, Australia. (See below on how to apply)
ISEC (International Youth Science & Engineering Camp), Seoul, August 2011 Open to Yr12 and Yr13 students

This is an international research-oriented science camp, in which that about 100 students from more than 11 countries participate. It is
a two-week program that consists of science and engineering research in top-level university facilities, field trips to major institutes/industries,
cultural experiences and much more.
Funding to assist with international travel is available from the Talented School Students Travel Award fund.  Website:  http://www.rsnz.org/funding/talent/ Students must be studying physics and chemistry to be eligible to attend. (See below on how to apply)

YOUTH ANZAAS
(Australia New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science) 29 June –
finishing morning of Friday 7 July, Dunedin
Yr12 and Yr13 students This is a week-long residential event based in Dunedin that will coincide with the International Science Festival. 25 Australian secondary school students will attend together with up to 20 New Zealand secondary school students.  The week will involve visits to science organizations and social activities as well as being involved in the International Science Festival.  Students will be heavily subsidized by the Freemasons Travel Award however each student will need to pay $300.00 to attend. Students must be studying at least two science subjects to be eligible to attend. (see below on how to apply)

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT APPLYING FOR THE ABOVE OPPORTUNITIES

Criteria: Students must either be a New Zealand citizen or have permanent New Zealand residency, Students who apply should be excellent communicators and have a passion and aptitude for science in general or a particular area of science. Students should at studying
at least 2 of the following sciences being Biology, Chemistry or Physics,
Students who are involved in Extra Curricular science activities could be at an advantage. Please send: 3 copies of your application which must be unstapled and unbound. Each application needs to include: Letter of recommendation from the HOD Science which has to be co-signed by the Principal; Letter from applicant outlining why they think they would make a good candidate for selection. A verified copy of NCEA results or equivalent, Brief CV (please include email address – maximum 2 pages), Verified copy of passport or birth certificate, Application form.  Download from http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/programmes/competitions/international-secondary/

You may apply for one or more events if you are eligible. Complete applications must be received by 5.00pm on 30 March 2012 and sent to Debbie Woodhall, The Royal Society of New Zealand, PO Box 598, 4 Halswell Street,
Wellington. Fax: 04 473 1841, Phone 04 470 5762, Email:
Debbie.woodhall@royalsociety.org.nz
Late applications will not be accepted.

Chemistry – Pathologist’s discoveries to dye for

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

By Associate Professor Allan Blackman
This article was orignally published in the Otago Daily Times
on Tuesday 7 February 2012.

<!–

Tel: +64  3  479 7931

–><!–

Location: Science II, 5n4

–><!–

blackman@chemistry.otago.ac.nz

–>


I was feeling a bit poorly a couple of weeks ago, so I crawled from my
sickbed and made one of my relatively infrequent trips to the Doctor, who
prescribed a course of antibiotics. While remaining bedridden and feeling very
sorry for myself, I had occasion to recall the interesting genesis of the first
synthetic antibiotic. It’s all to do with dyes, and a father’s great love for
his daughter.
Up until a couple of hundred years ago, brightly coloured clothes were almost exclusively the domain of the rich, as the dyes used had to be sourced from either plants or animals. The colouration of one of Julius Caesar’s purple robes, for example, reputedly came from the extracts of 10,000 molluscs, while to dye anything crimson required lots and lots of cochineal insects from far-off Mexico.
However, all this changed thanks to William Perkin, who in 1856, at the
ridiculously young age of 18, patented the first synthetic dye, the
purple-coloured mauveine. His discovery changed the chemical industry overnight,
and spurred an enormous amount of research into other synthetic dyes – indeed,
the chemical giant BASF was founded in 1865 for this very purpose.
In 1925, BASF, along with five other chemical companies, merged to form I.G.
Farben (‘Farben’ is an abbreviation of the German word for ‘dye industry’) and
it was to here that the German pathologist Gerhard Domagk took a leave of
absence from his Professorship at the University of Münster in order to further
his studies on bacterial infections. He was working on a virulent form of
streptococcus, and wanted to be able to ‘stain’ the bacteria so they could be
easily visualised. For this, he used a class of simple, highly-coloured
molecules called azo dyes, and found to his surprise that some of these showed
promising activity against the bacteria. Chemical modification of one particular
azo dye gave a molecule called Prontosil, and in 1932, Domagk showed that this
protected mice against lethal doses of streptococci.
While this was a huge breakthrough, it was by no means certain that Prontosil
would be as effective in humans. And here, fate intervened. In 1935, Domagk’s 6
year-old daughter, Hildegard, pricked herself with a needle and suffered a
streptococcal infection – in those days, such infections were often fatal. She
was rushed to the doctor, who recommended amputation of the arm to save her
life. Domagk, aghast at the suggestion, gave her a dose of Prontosil – two days
later the infection had subsided and, soon after, she was discharged from
hospital. This incident, along with other somewhat more controlled clinical
trials, confirmed Prontosil as the world’s first effective synthetic
antibiotic.
Domagk was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1939.
However, a law passed by the Nazis forbade any German citizen from accepting the
award, and he did not make the journey to Stockholm until 1947. Sadly, while he
was awarded the diploma and the medal, he didn’t receive the monetary portion of
the prize.
While Prontosil was soon overtaken by Penicillin as the antibiotic of choice,
Domagk’s work laid the foundations for all modern synthetic antibiotics. For
this, we should be very grateful.

http://neon.otago.ac.nz/chemistry/magazine/128

Science Dept Outreach Links

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

The links  below will take you to school support material from each of our key science departments:

Biochemistry   Dept Outreach

http://biochem.otago.ac.nz/careers/  

Chemistry Dept Outreach:

http://neon.otago.ac.nz/chemistry/outreach

Computer Science Dept  Outreach

http://www.cs.otago.ac.nz/community/schools.php

Genetics Dept Outreach

http://www.otago.ac.nz/genetics/schools/

Marine Science Dept Outreach

http://www.otago.ac.nz/marinestudies/education/secondary.html

Mathematics  Dept Outreach

http://www.maths.otago.ac.nz/home/schools/schools.php

Physics Dept Outreach

http://www.physics.otago.ac.nz/node/89

Zoology Dept Outreach

http://www.otago.ac.nz/zoology/schools/

Essential Readings for Level 3 Bio Externals

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 | hamvi58p | No Comments

http://www.becominghuman.org/

->Covers human evolution, this website has excellent video coverage and resources

site applying genetics to examples

http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/

->Genetics applications, an excellent site

http://dnalc.org/home.html

-> Gene Almanac, an awesome interactive

http://dnaftb.org/dnaftb/

-> DNA from the beginning, an excellent summary of level 3 genetics

http://www.dnai.org/

-> DNA Interactive, excellent case studies as applications of genetic practises and processes, an awesome site with case study approaches to assist in exam prep (especially for schol exam).

http://sci.waikato.ac.nz/evolution/index.shtml

->  NZ evolution examples, excellent site for evolution with lots of good NZ examples.

http://www.sciencecases.org/hemo/hemo.asp

-> Inheritance of haemophilia, an interesting case study, good practice for thinking.

http://www.biotechlearn.org.nz/

-> NZ science research, home grown examples of applications of science, a good site.

http://www.rsnz.org/education/gamma/

->Royal Society of NZ webiste, Gamma Series, Science behind the news, great articles modelling good writing.

http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/scholarship/index.html

-> scholarship information, details of scholarship, an essential for scholarship candidates.

http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/scholarship/subjects/resources.html

-> Biology Scholarship Information, details of exams etc, an essential for scholarship candidates.

http://www.tki.org.nz/r/ncea/bio3_supportmaterial_15feb06.doc

->NCEA on TKI supplementary materials, summary of genetics and evolution at level 3

http://www.tki.org.nz/r/ncea/bio3_supportgenetics_18dec06.doc

->NCEA on TKI supplementary materials, summary of Plant and Animal and ecology knowledge required for level 3 and scholarship

 

Kahn Academy

Friday, September 16th, 2011 | hamvi58p | No Comments

This site has a vast number of resources covering much of your Y13 curriculum content… Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Maths (Calc and Stats) etc.  Useful tutorials to watch when you are sick of writing out your own study notes etc and just want to keep learning….

http://www.khanacademy.org/

Triple Helix Resources

Friday, September 2nd, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

TRIPLE HELIX RESOURCES

is focused on the provision of quality biology and general science teaching materials.
Their aim is to produce resources that will not only help teachers to teach and students to learn but will also encourage a lifelong fascination with science and the living world

http://www.biologyresources.co.nz/

Biology Scholarship link

Friday, September 2nd, 2011 | hamvi58p | No Comments

You’ll obvioulsy know by now if you are doing Biology Scholarship at the end of the year.  If so, as you’ll know already your best preparation is to read as widely as possible on all things biology related.  Here is the link to guidelines and exemplars from the NZQA website.

http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/qualifications-standards/awards/scholarship/scholarship-subjects/scholarship-biology

Also, as mentioned in an earlier post, the website that I would most recommend to teachers and students alike is the Teachers Domain site:  http://www.teachersdomain.org/collection/k12/sci/.  Make some time to have a look at the resources for wider reading, animations, powerpoints etc on all manner of science related topics.  This site will really help you with developing wider thinking skills to get your responses in exams up to that Merit and Excellence level that you are all striving for!

Tell your science teacher about the Teachers Domain site and this OUASSA site and make their day!

“Making wise decisions in the face of uncertainty.”

Thursday, August 18th, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Statistics may be defined as “a body of methods for making wise decisions in the face of uncertainty.”   W.A. Wallis

How  confident are you with Statistical theory and practice?

Would you like to use state of the art analytical software on real problems  to hone your skills?

Otago  University has made a series of video clips  of researchers talking about  using statistics in their research. The clips include  examples from zoology, nutrition, psychology, chemistry, physiology within the university and DoC and AgResearch Ruakua outside the University.

But wait there’s more….!!!!!

The videos come with matching data sets  and a powerful, free-to-use menu-driven schools version of the statistical package GenStat .

A FREE school version of this software has been developed for New Zealand Schools. You can even  access the software freely at home once your  school is registered.

The video clips and data sets come with lessons using `GenStat Schools’ and all of the resources are available from the department’s website www.maths.otago.ac.nz/videos/statistics

A school can apply for a FREE GenStat Schools Licence at www.vsni.co.uk/software/genstat-teaching

If you haven’t heard of GenStat take this to your Maths Teacher right away  and start making use of this great resource.

Isolating Mechanisms

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 | hamvi58p | No Comments

http://www.teachersdomain.org/resource/tdc02.sci.life.evo.lacewings/

Check out the section called ‘Background Essay’….. brilliant for your revision, here is a sneak peak.

‘When explaining a breakup, couples will often say, “We grew apart,” or “We both changed in different ways.” That’s a good metaphor for how species are formed: members of a population somehow begin to diverge, usually as a result of being geographically separated from each other. Eventually, they can no longer interbreed, and at that point a new species has formed.

Yet if the two groups continued to live near each other, it’s likely that mating attempts between naturally varying members of the two populations would tend to allow the species to merge again. This is called “gene flow” between the two groups. What keeps this from happening, and what allows new species to arise and endure, are what are known as “isolating mechanisms.” These are either behavioral or structural differences between species that make mating impossible……’ see website for remainder of article.
Discussion Questions:

  • How might different songs keep species of lacewings from interbreeding?
  • Can you think of other examples of traits or mechanisms that would similarly isolate other closely-related species?
  • Speciation resource –

    Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 | hamvi58p | No Comments

    The Origin of Species

    This is a great website for those wanting to apply themselves to what has been taught in the classroom.  The extract below is the background reading, there are applictaion questions as well as the interactive slide show.  A must for serious Biologists and Excellence/Schol. candidates!

    http://www.teachersdomain.org/resource/tdc02.sci.life.evo.anorigin/

    The term evolution refers to the cumulative change that occurs in populations of organisms over time. Sometimes evolutionary change is so dramatic that different populations of the same species diverge to become two or more distinct species. In the case of a group of birds called honeycreepers, for example, a single species that colonized the Hawaiʻian Islands about 5 million years ago ultimately diverged into 57 different species.

    This process, which evolutionary biologists call speciation or adaptive radiation, can happen anywhere. However, it is most clearly demonstrated on geologically young land masses, such as newly formed islands or mountains. In these environments a population of organisms will typically find a set of environmental opportunities and pressures very different from the conditions they experienced in their place of origin. These environmental differences come in many forms and often cause sweeping evolutionary changes in a founding population.

    Several environmental factors affect the process of speciation. The structural habitat of an area determines the ease with which creatures are able to move around and find shelter from weather and other organisms. Food, both the type and its availability, dictates the ease with which animals are able to acquire the energy they need to survive and reproduce.

    Competition for various resources is another factor that can drive the process of speciation. Competitive pressure can come from organisms of the same species or from organisms of different species. Generally, in highly competitive environments, traits that minimize competition — traits that, for example, allow two different populations to feed on very different types of food — are advantageous.

    Another factor that can influence speciation is predation. Predators typically reduce the rate of speciation because they limit other organisms’ access to resources. On newly formed land masses, however, the number of predators is typically lower than on older continents. These younger environments, therefore, provide more opportunities for species to evolve into new and different species

    ‘Out of Africa’ Hypothesis: Radio Interview

    Sunday, August 7th, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

    Rebecca Cann   is “Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology, and member of the International Scientific Advisory Panel of the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution. She co-authored the influential study which showed modern humans evolved from a single African population”  but there is a strong Otago University link through  Professor Alan Wilson  way back in 1950’s. Check out the story on national radio podcast from Sat 6th Aug  at 9.05 am http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday  

    Science and doubt in the Global Warming arena

    Thursday, July 21st, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

    Doubt:

      to be uncertain about; consider questionable or unlikely; hesitate to believe. 2 . to distrust

    It’s an individual thing, right? We read something  `we’ decide .

    But can doubt also be `manufactured’ , promulgated  by  orchestrated action?

     I would strongly recommend  you listen to podcast of recent Michael King Memorial Lecture here in New Zealand entitled Science and Doubt  by American Professor of History  & Science Studies Naomi Oreskes. 

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/writers/audio/2493432/michael-king-memorial-lecture-on-science-and-doubt

    Download it to your Ipod  and listen to it on your way down to camp.

    Then make up your own mind

    Teacher Guides from Howard Hughes Medical Institute

    Monday, June 13th, 2011 | KEV KNOWLES | No Comments

    These teacher guides were developed to provide topic-specific organization of BioInteractive resources optimized for classroom use. The guides offer detailed instructions for both online and DVD access, time lengths, and summaries of each resource. The resources include animations, video clips, virtual labs, lecture chapters, and interactive Click and Learns specific to each topic – Biotechnology, DNA, gene expression, gene regulation etc


    Brilliant resources appropriate for classroom teaching here.
    http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/guides/

    Protein Synthesis

    Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

    DNA fromwwwbuzzlecomA more sedate way to get to grips with Protein synthesis
    than Kev’s recent link to  DNA Rap song on Youtube

    This set of animated slides with View Again and Go-back options allows you to get to grips with  the process at your own pace.

    http://www.wisc-online.com/objects/ap1302/ap1302.swf

    More animated `learning objects’ can be found at www.wisc-online.com

    Evolutionary Evidence from New Zealand

    Thursday, May 26th, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

    Kakapo,Kea, kaka complexStruggling to get your head around role of polyploidy in speciation, adaptive radiation and such like?
    This page brings those concepts into focus using New Zealand examples.
    http://sci.waikato.ac.nz/evolution/NZevidence.shtml

    Check out the rest of the Evolution for Teaching site for  information on ‘Human Evolution’, `Darwin & Religion’, Earth’s History & Evolution’ and `Theories, Hypotheses, & Laws’.

    A good authoratative site from University of Waikato with a links to glossary &  a useful FAQ page.

    The Physics of Climate Change: A Powerpoint Resource

    Saturday, May 14th, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

    This presentation by  Keith Burrows  is designed for teachers to use in schools or with their local community.

    Picture1 (Small)

    It contains reasonably ‘heavy’ science aimed at senior students or serious adults.

    http://www.vicphysics.org/documents/teachers/ClimateSciNov08.ppt#256,1,The Physics of our Climate

    A ‘lighter’ version is in the pipeline and will be put on vicphysics.org soon. In the meantime, for younger students some sections of this presentation could be omitted.