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 (, 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 (, to the evolution of true trichromatic colour vision in African apes. (;

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  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.

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

Tune into the landing on August 5th

Climate Sceptic Changes His Mind

Monday, July 30th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

THE Earth’s land has warmed by 1.5 degrees Celsius in the past 250 years and ”humans are almost entirely the cause”, according to a scientific study set up to address climate sceptic concerns about whether human-induced global warming is occurring.

Richard Muller, a climate sceptic physicist who founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, said he was ”surprised” by the findings. ”We were not expecting this, but as scientists, it is our duty to let the evidence change our minds.”

He said he considered himself a ”converted sceptic” and his views had received a ”total turnaround” in a short space of time.

Read more:

Our Far South Roadshow

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

Earlier this year Gareth Morgan led the Our Far South expedition down through the subantarctic islands and Southern Ocean to Antarctica. Among the crew were 10 of New Zealand’s top experts in the region and 40 everyday New Zealanders. The purpose of the trip was to raise awareness about ‘Our Far South’, its importance and the issues facing the area including climate change, the race for resources and conservation. One of the projects that has come out of the trip is the so-called Million Dollar Mouse campaign to eradicate mice from the Antipodes Islands. See
What they discovered on the voyage was fascinating and Gareth is now embarking on a national speaking tours to share his experience and further our aim of raising awareness about the region. All proceeds from the roadshow will go to the Million Dollar Mouse campaign.
The National Tour starts in Tauranga on 30th July, visits 9 cities throughout New Zealand, ending in Invercargill on 16th August. 
More details and tickets are available on the website.

It’s Study Time…. again

Monday, July 16th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

As a teacher I can’t reccommend enough the need to revise, be well prepared and confident in the lead up to your school ‘practise’ exams and your external NCEA exams.  The Studyit website has a lot of useful information and resources such as study timetables, tips, advice etc to help you get started and to help you feel more in control during the next few months. The sooner you start, the more prepared you will be!

Don’t forget that we are offering on-line tutorials to all 2012 OUASSA students for Biology, Chemistry and Physics as well as Scholarship – sit in and listen, bring your questions and make the most of the tutorial support available to YOU!

You have been emailed a Google Form to complete regarding tutorial support – so get it filled out asap and we can make a start scheduling your on-line support!

In the mean time…. check out Studyit.

Study advice

Be prepared

  • Go to all revision sessions for your subjects.
  • Have up-to-date course notes. If you don’t, ask your teachers for the latest versions.
  • Practise assessments and examination papers.
  • Know what is required for each achievement standard.


  • Set regular routines of study.
  • Choose a quiet, airy, well-lit place to study.
  • Set study goals
    • Daily goals
    • Weekly goals
    • Long-term goals
  • Know your deadlines.
  • Make a study timetable
  • Do a small amount of study on each subject every night.


  • Have lots of breaks eg break every 50 minutes for 10 minutes.
  • Eat healthily, sleep regularly and exercise.
  • Reward yourself regularly.
  • If stressed, ask for help. Your teachers want you to succeed; ask them!

“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



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 and print the subject content summaries for each of their achievement standards.
Please acknowledge to 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 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.
New Zealand
Ph./Fax: 64 3 477 2888
Description: email

Planning a Science Degree

Friday, June 15th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments


The Bachelor of Science (BSc) is a three-year undergraduate degree which enables each student to develop his or her own interests in a science subject (science major) and related subjects. Students have the flexibility to combine their major subject with other science subjects, as well as subjects from other disciplines across the University.

Students may be invited to participate in the four-year Honours degree programme based on their academic performance at the end of their first, second or third year of study in the BSc degree.

Follow the link below to help start planning a degree around what interests you.  If you have any questions, bring them to camp with you and we can get all of the answers you need!

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!

July Camp Update

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Well OUASSA students, the July camp is rapidly approaching and we are getting very excited to be hosting you at Otago University again.

You will soon recieve (via email) a copy of the Student Handbook with the final details regarding the July Camp.  Included in this information will be the final copy of the timetable as well as all of the important things you will need to remember to pack.

Please take the time to read the information regarding your project options eg if you do Geography you will see that you will need to find your handout from the January camp. If you do Zoology, Marine Science or Geography you will see that you will have a field component to your projects and will have to bring extra warm clothes/wet weather gear etc.

You will all also need to find and bring with you your clean OUASSA t-shirt.

Remember is you have any questions or concerns, please email me directly at

Kind regards and keep warm!


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’)

 and check out the detail on this website

Quick Introduction…

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


Just a quick post to introduce myself – I am Emily, here to (hopefully) help you out with the phantasical world of Physics (see what I did there?) I’m a full time teacher of Physics at Queen’s High in Dunedin. I also have a karate group at Queen’s where I can force introduce students to my other passion which is karate. In addition, I’m working on a Master of Science Communication degree in teaching Physics through…….. wait for it……… KARATE! (bet no one saw that coming). In my spare time I run around after my two little boys who luckily for me love karate and Science. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in person in July and virtually before then.

Over and out


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:

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.

My Synthesis Notes in Knowledge Forum

Monday, May 21st, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Hi OUASSA Students,

Just a reminder that your My Synthesis note in Knowledge Forum is due by Friday of this week (the 25th of May).  This is a compulsory task for you all to complete.

The Marine Science Group are leading the charge with some really well written notes.  Have a read of these and you may find that you could use some of them as a guideline to compose your own Synthesis note i.e. they give you an idea of what is required and provide a good starting point for building your own note.  Likewise, the Maths Group have also got the ball rolling and have made some great contributions.  Well done guys!

If you are yet to do your My Synthesis note – please make sure you set aside some time to do so before Friday.

If you need help – or are struggling with the KF programme or access then please email me directly.

All details of the task required have been sent to your personal email and are also in KF itself.

Kind regards,


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

Science Idol – 2012

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

US science rapper Tom McFadden is hitting the road from 20th May on his New Zealand tour – visiting schools from Auckland to Dunedin thanks to support from the US Embassy and Klablab. Science Idol is a way of sharing Tom’s contagious passion for biology, rap, and making science fun.
Get involved and enter your own science rap, and you could win a trip to Dunedin for you and a guardian to get your rap professionally recorded – just pick a topic that has something to do with “what makes us tick?” and then get all creative!

We’ll update you on how to enter soon, so keep updated by signing up for the newsletter or facebook site
Your song can be rap, pop, or punk. It can be an original or a cover. Perform it by yourself or with a group. Not feeling musical? It can even be spoken word.
Get scientific, get creative and have fun! As long as your performance is accurate, entertaining and conveys a scientific concept, you are good to go.
If you still have more questions – contact us at

Knowledge Forum: Synthesis of Project A Discussion Views

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

 Hi  All
Your task is a simple one:
You are each to make to a New Note that pulls together the knowledge you have gained from the knowledge building discussion on your Project A View (Maths, Physics, Marine Science or Zoology). 

We have added a new set of scaffolds entitled ‘My Synthesis’ to help you do this.

Use these scaffolds to help you synthesise what you have learned from your Project A discussion and to highlight the ideas, posts and links that helped your knowledge building most. 

Post your synthesis as a New Note titled `My Synthesis’ within your Project view.

This task should take you no more than 30 minutes.

Date Due:  Fri 25th of May

We look forward to reading your ‘My Synthesis’ post. 

Don’t forget if you have ANY technical problems using Knowledge Forum let us know right away.  For those of you who haven’t been in for a while, have forgotten how to use the software or have lost the starter guide given you at the January camp, we are happy to  email you another copy and/or run a short refresher on-line using OtagoConnect.

Soon we will be posting the Project B views (Chemistry, Biochemistry/Genetics, Computer Science and Geography) to create an on-line discussion and to synthesize ideas generated between now and the July camp. 

May we take this opportunity to remind you that we expect you to access Knowledge Forum at least once a week to read the posts of others and to make a new note. This is your contribution to the Academy between camps and is part of  the  commitment  you undertook when you applied to The OUASSA.

Don’t forget the Curriculum Views are there  to post questions asking for advice or assistance with internals and externals etc. We will gladly help where we can!

2011 Students Studying at Otago University

Friday, May 11th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Hello there,

A huge thank you to those of you who attended the 2011 OUASSA Lunch held on campus on Wednesday.  It was so lovely to see you all again, to hear how well you are doing and how the Academy impacted on your tertiary pathways/career options.

Please be sure to keep in touch!

Kind regards The OUASSA Team

Science Alert – Website

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

An excellent website with the latest news and research developments.  There are many great articles to read and links to follow…. here is an example of a good article about human endogenous rhythms and the potential role of the liver.  All of you Y13 Biology students will be studying biological timing mechanisims in preparation for the external AS ‘Describe animal behaviour and plant responses in relation to environmental factors’.

Liver helps ‘set’ body clock

The University of Sydney
Friday, 04 May 2012
A disrupted body clock can cause a higher risk of obesity and diabetes, but this breakthrough suggets a new target for treatments to ‘reset’ the clock.

International travellers, shift workers and even people suffering from obesity-related conditions stand to benefit from a key discovery about the functioning of the body’s internal clock.
Professor Chris Liddle, from the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research, the University of Sydney, worked with a team from the Salk Institute based in California, to demonstrate the importance of circadian receptors found in the brain and the liver. Their findings are published in Nature today.
“The research is important as these are the first core component of the circadian clock identified that can be targeted with drugs, which could provide relief for those affected by disrupted circadian rhythms,” said Professor Liddle.
The circadian clock is an internal daily body clock that controls alertness, appetite, sleep timing and hormone secretions.
“Previously we have known that there are body ‘clocks’ not only in the brain but in most other body tissues including the liver, part of the focus of this study. While the brain clock is mainly cued by light, these other clocks are cued by factors such as exercise and diet as well as receiving nerve and hormone signals from the central clock in the brain.”
People with circadian disturbances tend to have a higher incidence of health concerns such as obesity, diabetes and related metabolic disorders. It is much more than simply a problem of disturbed sleep.
“People tend to think that the clock is just something that happens in the brain but it’s a whole-body issue. Literally you do not feel like exercising and your metabolism slows when you are in a certain part of the cycle. This contributes to obesity-related problems.
“When you fly overseas, not only do you wake up in the middle of the night, you probably notice you want to eat in the middle of the night, and that during the day you have reduced energy. The liver is a key player in the regulation of energy and we now understand quite a bit more how liver genes ‘clock in’ to the circadian cycle.”
Professor Liddle, a liver expert who has worked on liver genes for more than a decade with the Salk Institute, said the team had been able to show that these receptors in the liver were important in controlling the metabolism of fats and other genes related to diet, nutrition, digestion and energy expenditure.
“This is a very exciting discovery. We have now shown that these receptors in the body’s tissues do not have a peripheral role but are core components for setting our body clock that we can potentially use drugs on.
“The promise of this research for the future is that we can specifically target drug treatments at these receptors. The hope is that not only problems like jet lag and disturbed sleep can be more easily managed but other associated health concerns can be addressed more effectively,” Professor Liddle said.

In the news – ‘Super moon’ to rise over New Zealand

Friday, May 4th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

 A “super moon” will rise in New Zealand skies on Sunday.

It will be 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than any other full moon this year, the US space agency NASA says.

Known as a “perigee moon”, it occurs when the moon reaches its closest point to Earth.

The full moon will occur at 3.35pm on Sunday, New Zealand time, but will not be visible here until moonrise over New Zealand at 5.23pm.

With a clear sky, it guarantees Sunday night will be a bright one.

NASA says the super moon has a reputation for trouble, causing high tides, making dogs howl and keeping people awake.

The space agency says the best time to look at it is when the moon is near the horizon.

“For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects.

“This moon illusion will amplify a full moon that’s extra-big to begin with. The swollen orb rising in the east at sunset should seem super indeed.”

Super perigee moons are fairly common, with the moon becoming full within a few hours of its closest approach to Earth about once a year on average.

The last such event occurred on March 19 last year, producing a full moon that was almost 400km closer than this one.

The “super moon” will produce spring tides around New Zealand, with a 3.6 metre high tide at 7.51am on Monday in Auckland.

By Michael Field

Contribution to Knowledge Forum

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Hey OUASSA Students,

Just a bit of house keeping from me…. this is a friendly reminder that you need to be going into KF once a week throughout the reaminder of this term in the lead up to the July camp. The expectation is a half an hour of your time per week.  If you know that you are perhaps not contributing the way that you could be, now would be an ideal time to start.  Remember that if you have any problems logging in etc just email me directly and I will do my best to get any issues sorted.

Those of you who are regular KF contributors – keep up the good work!

Kind regards,


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”.


Read  more here.

There is a cool  video clip to watch too!

April Update

Friday, April 20th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Dear OUASSA students

Knowledge Forum:  We have just completed another round of statistics analysis based on the work you are doing in Knowledge Forum. The good news is that some of you are making a genuine effort to involve yourselves in the on-line discussions either by providing interesting notes, building-on and/or annotating the notes of others. However, there are quite a few of you  who are not meeting  the commitment of just 1 post per week. If you are having technical difficulties getting into Knowledge Forum  you need to let us know right away so we can try fix it from this end.

There are a number of different views that you can be contributing.  Primarily the focus for you should be on building up project related discussions based in your Project A groups (Marine Science, Zoology, Physics and Maths).

Towards the end of May we will be asking each of you to synthesise  your Project A discussions in a Synthesis Post. In this post you will identify the knowledge built for you from the discussion.   So you have approximately 4 weeks to get yourselves involved!  We will provide the instructions for this task soon.

Don’t forget, there are also views on the main curriculum areas (biology, Chemistry and Physics) where you can find Achievement Objectives, ask questions, request help etc and we will gladly support you.  The introductory exercise views on three world problems are still up and running and actively being contributed to be some of you. And there are two more recent views on Knowledge Building and Knowledge Forum Support. You are free to contribute to any or all of these views.

Please remember that the expectation we have of you is one contribution per week! That equates to about 20-30mins input.

OUASSA Resource Site:  This is a dynamic site that offers useful resources and links to all things Science related.  We recently had some pleasing feedback stating how great the site has been for a Year 13 student and how it will be his go-to site for Year 13 curriculum support. It is hoped that you are utilising this resource also. Your feedback would be appreciated. 

Medical Information:  As requested via email: please be sure to send Kate details of any medical conditions you have. If  none, you still need to reply with your Doctor`s name and contact telephone number.  This information is important for our Health and Safety responsibilities while you are in our care in July.  It is treated as confidential.

Travel Bookings:  There are just 5 students left yet to confirm their travel bookings through Kylie at Orbit House of Travel.  If you have not had a FINAL itinerary that you have accepted from Kylie you will need to check your emails and reply to her or email Kate directly at

Any other requests or questions, we are here to help so please don’t hesitate to email us.

Kind regards,


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

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.

Cell Animation – TED

Monday, April 16th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

This is a very iinteresting clip from the TED talks. Interesting for keen biologists and students with an interest in garphics, animations, etc.

Medical animator David Bolinsky presents 3 minutes of stunning animation that show the bustling life inside a cell.

David Bolinsky and his team illustrate scientific and medical concepts with high-drama animation. You’ve never seen the life of a cell quite like this.

Each of us has about 100,000 [kinesins] running around, right now, inside each one of your 100 trillion cells. So no matter how lazy you feel, you’re not really intrinsically doing nothing.” (David Bolinsky)

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

Science Media Centre

Friday, March 30th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

This website is aimed at promoting accurate, bias free reporting on science and technology by helping the media work more closely with the scientific community.

This website could be really good for your general wider reading as well as for research for possible internals in Level 3 Biology and the likes.

Studying before bedtime has benefits

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Learning Best When You Rest: Sleeping After Processing New Info Most Effective

ScienceDaily (Mar. 23, 2012) — Nodding off in class may not be such a bad idea after all. New research from the University of Notre Dame shows that going to sleep shortly after learning new material is most beneficial for recall.

Notre Dame psychologist Jessica Payne and colleagues studied 207 students who habitually slept for at least six hours per night. Participants were randomly assigned to study declarative, semantically related or unrelated word pairs at 9 a.m. or 9 p.m., and returned for testing 30 minutes, 12 hours or 24 hours later. Declarative memory refers to the ability to consciously remember facts and events, and can be broken down into episodic memory (memory for events) and semantic memory (memory for facts about the world). People routinely use both types of memory every day — recalling where we parked today or learning how a colleague prefers to be addressed.

At the 12-hour retest, memory overall was superior following a night of sleep compared to a day of wakefulness. However, this performance difference was a result of a pronounced deterioration in memory for unrelated word pairs; there was no sleep-wake difference for related word pairs. At the 24-hour retest, with all subjects having received both a full night of sleep and a full day of wakefulness, subjects’ memories were superior when sleep occurred shortly after learning, rather than following a full day of wakefulness.

“Our study confirms that sleeping directly after learning something new is beneficial for memory. What’s novel about this study is that we tried to shine light on sleep’s influence on both types of declarative memory by studying semantically unrelated and related word pairs,” Payne says.

“Since we found that sleeping soon after learning benefited both types of memory, this means that it would be a good thing to rehearse any information you need to remember just prior to going to bed. In some sense, you may be ‘telling’ the sleeping brain what to consolidate.”

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.

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…

OUASSA 2011 Intake

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

Hi to all of the OUASSA 2011 students,

We are keen to hear what your plans are for 2012, whether you are studying (what and where), taking a break/gap year, travelling, volunteering abroad and on so.  Please send Kate an email at and spread the word among your 2011 OUASSA friends that we are really interested in catching up.

Kind regards,


No Major Drama

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

This website is a great place to spend some time looking into what you are interested in and what tertiary study options are out there for you.

No Major Drama – The smart way to learn about NZ university majors!

The smart way to learn about NZ university majors! Create your own ranking of major subject areas? based on your skills and interests.

No Major Drama helps you learn about majors for Bachelor degrees from across all eight New Zealand universities* and rank them based on your skills and interests.

(*Auckland University of Technology, Lincoln University, Massey University, University of Auckland, University of Canterbury, University of Otago, University of Waikato, Victoria University of Wellington)

No Major Drama is designed to help you answer what’s likely to be one of the most important questions you’ll face in your life: What should I ‘major’ (specialise) in at university?

This question is important because of the lifetime benefits – and costs! – associated with university education. It’s also of national significance given education’s social and economic value and the scarcity of education resources.

Based on your skills and interests, No Major Drama lets you create your own personalised ranking of 181 major subject areas – eg. Accounting, Music, Zoology, etc – representing 730 specific majors for Bachelor degrees from across all eight NZ universities.

(If you are unsure of what ‘majors’ and ‘subject areas’ are, visit our terminology page.)

As well as personalised rankings, No Major Drama provides summaries of each subject area and links to carefully chosen Wikipedia articles, career opportunities, and links to the eight universities’ web pages for all 730 specific majors available in NZ.

No Major Drama is quick and easy to use (5-10 minutes), and you can share your results with your parents and family, school counsellors and friends by email or on Facebook.

Created by Graduate Factory Ltd, No Major Drama is completely free – for individual users and schools. Schools can easily create customised versions of the software for their students.


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.


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


Friday, March 16th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

New Zealand’s most popular student website turned eight on 1st March. Studyit began supporting NCEA students on March 1 2004. Studyit is a free, safe and successful online support site developed and managed by CWA New Media, a business unit of Learning Media.
Studyit has everything needed to get achieve, merit and excellence, written in student
terms, as well as fourteen very active
forums where expert teachers answer student questions at night, in the weekends and during holidays.
Recent feedback from Studyit students includes:
  • I got straight E’s in maths, thank you very much for all your help on this website, it really helped me
  • I just wanted to say a huge thanks for all the help I received from Studyit for my level 1 papers last year (I got 100% excellence!)
  • Studyit made a huge difference to the way I approached the exam! I tried to make my answers biologically detailed but concise even though I was really stressed for time.
  • Seems that all us Studyit users found the exam went incredibly well even though 3 News said it was really hard. I think this just goes to show the positive impact of Studyit on our performance
  • I went into the exam feeling a lot more confident knowing that I had prepared as well as I could – and a great deal of that preparation could not have been done without Studyit. It was so great to have such quick replies to all my questions, even on weekends and holidays.
Studyit gives students more confidence! for NCEA maths, science and English students.

Studyit facebook
Winner of the 2008, 2009 & 2010 Net Guide People’s
Choice Award for Best Education Site

2011 Best Student Site

Winner of the 2006 TUANZ Education Innovation of
the Year Award

Finalist 2011 Australia and New Zealand Internet

CWA a business unit of
Learning Media Ltd.

Mobile: 027 227 8603

Fax: +64 4 382 6509

Postal: PO Box 19090, Wellington, New

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.

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.


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.

Academic Support

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Please let us know if you need any academic support with any of your Y13 Science Subjects and we will gladly organise tutorial suppport, additional readings, contacts with relevant University staff, help with resourcing materials, references etc.

If there are common themes emerging we can also post views in Knowledge Forum to source relevant information that can be shared among the 2012 cohort.

Email any requests you have to We look forward to hearing from you.

What motivates you as a scientist?

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

To tie in with the latest Nature Outlook, Lenses on Biology, the Nature Communities team asked five biological scientists at different stages of their education or careers to tell their personal stories in a guest blog post. Each scientist studies, works or has an interest in one of the five research fields featured in Lenses on Biology ― cancer, stem cells, synthetic biology, ocean health and climate change ― and they share what motivates them in their chosen subject. You can read their stories below, and discuss your own motivations here or on the posts in question.

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.

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.

Knowledge Forum Trouble-shooting

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

If you are having trouble logging into KF, try the suggestions below from Ken Pullar our KF Technical Support person.

We have had some feedback to say that some of you are having problems logging in in the enhanced version of the software…

Students should check (as well as making sure ‘popups’ from are allowed on the
particular browser they’re using
), that Java (latest version) has
been installed (get it from ).

The problem is very, very likely to be one of these 2 issues  – if students have no joy
sorting it out they can call Ken directly (03 4468533 or 027 4468532) and he
may be able to help. Alternatively, email us at or email Ken directly at

Revision website ‘S-cool’

Monday, February 20th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

High quality revision materials using S-cool’s straight forward 3 steps to success process.  This site is from the UK and has a sepcific section for A-level revision (Senior Science).  Each of your classroom subjects will be found on this website.

1. Revise it

Check you know the main principles by reviewing the list of different topic areas, either click on the topic heading to quick learn the whole topic or pick individual principles to brush up.

2. Test it

Now you have learnt the main principles, test yourself with these sample questions. If you get stuck, go back and review the principle again.

Exam style questions

3.  Remember it

Print these out and carry them with you!


ESA Study Guides and Revision Books

Friday, February 17th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Below is the link to the ESA Publications website.  Hopefully all of you will be focussed on achieving to the very best of your ability at the end of the year and during your internal assessments.  These books offer great support for a vast number of subjects at Y13 level.   They are useful for end of topic tests also and have full vocab lists for all of that tricky terminology (especially useful for Bio!). I highly reccommend these books as a useful support tool.

Science Reading – The State of Science

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Welcome to The State of Science, a series in which Australia’s leading scientists give a snapshot of their discipline. This is not a “defence” of science, nor an attack on those who reject scientific consensus. It is an in-depth, sometimes playful, look at how science works, how it affects our lives and, yes, how and where it can go wrong. Enjoy.

This is the first part of The State of Science. To read the other instalments, follow the links at the bottom of the first page of the link.  Series one – fourteen.

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
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.

2012 International & National Science Opportunities

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

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
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: Students must be studying physics and chemistry to be eligible to attend. (See below on how to apply)

(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)


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

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:
Late applications will not be accepted.

OUASSA 2012 Photo & Resource Request

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Hi there,

We hope you are settling into your Year 13 year at High School and that you had a fabulous time in Dunedin during your OUASSA January experience. We certainly enjoyed meeting you all and we will soon be busy arranging the timetable for July.

If you have any photos that you would like to share could you please email them to us at

Likewise, please use this site to share any interetsing, inspiring or amazing Science resources that you think may be of use to the Academy Community. Or email the links and a brief description to me and I can post them for you:-)

Many thanks,


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  

Chemistry Dept Outreach:

Computer Science Dept  Outreach

Genetics Dept Outreach

Marine Science Dept Outreach

Mathematics  Dept Outreach

Physics Dept Outreach

Zoology Dept Outreach

Scholarship support material

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Hi there,

We hope everything is going well and that you are gearing up for your externals in November.  If you are after scholarship support material in Bio/Chem/Physics and Math we can arrange access to the support material provided through Otagonet.  You can access this material whenever you want and can work through a vast array of very useful resources/activities/readings and questions.  Simply email me (Kate) at and she will sort your log in and password details.

We are also in the process of arranging on-line tutorials for those of you after some extra support using OtagoConnect software.  We will email you with details soon, alternatively email me and let me know if you are interested.

Keep up the good work,


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….

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.

Also, as mentioned in an earlier post, the website that I would most recommend to teachers and students alike is the Teachers Domain site:  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

A school can apply for a FREE GenStat Schools Licence at

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

‘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  

Science and doubt in the Global Warming arena

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


  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.

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

Then make up your own mind

Zoology Students

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Lisa and the Zoology Team have asked that the Zoology students read through the following information prior to their project work.

Dear Zoology students

You will find some activities attached here to help prepare you for the Zoology project during this camp. We will be focusing on invasive species, in particular species found within urban areas. As I’m sure you are all aware, this topic can be quite emotive, particularly when addressing issues of impact on native communities and management and control methods. We have asked you to research a couple of questions related to invasive species, gather some viewpoints on invasive species and control, and then finally to do a bit of research into a specific role. At the end of the project we will be undertaking a role play activity where you will be taking on a specific persona and have to argue your case for control. We do realise that the role you are assigned may not reflect your own personal view point, but sometimes they are actually the easiest to argue! 

Just a reminder to make sure you bring warm clothes, sturdy boots and a torch or headlamp for our early morning excursion on the tuesday. Remember its COLD in Dunedin and snow is predicted this week already.

Looking forward to working with you all again.

The Zoology team.

Questions to think about over the holidays

There are many introduced species in New Zealand:  >2,000 plant species, 32 mammals, and 33 birds have been introduced. But not all of them are considered to be invaders.

Can you think about the following, and be prepared to discuss when we meet.

  1. What is the definition of an invasive species?


2.    What makes an invasive species a pest?

Here are two quotes about possums: think about the implications of these different viewpoints of possums and be prepared to discuss them.

1.            This quote is by S. Bracegirdle of Egmont Skins and Hides, in the Taranaki Daily News (June 2011), describing his business which collects dead possums, plucks them for fur to sell to wool factories for possum/wool garments:

 “We’re turning a pest into something creative” 

2.            This quote is by Potts (2009, Society and Animals Vol 17: pp 1-20):

“Possums are positioned not only as unwanted and dangerous foreign invaders but also as unworthy of compassion and deserving of persecution: it is as if possums are responsible for the prejudice and malice they now face”

Finally, please gather three viewpoints from your family or acquaintances on possums as pests and their knowledge of current methods of possum control.




Role Play Exercise

Management and control of invasive species is often a very emotive subject resulting in a wide range of very different viewpoints. It is important that we consider all of these different views when  planning and implementing management programmes. This exercise is designed to give you an opportunity to explore some very divergent view points.


It has been proposed by a group of local environmentalists that an area of land, which includes a cluster of farms (some dairy), significant remnants of native vegetation, and including some small urban areas, be managed to be predator-free with the purpose of improving its biodiversity value. Given that it has been recommended that possum management strategies should include the development of community processes that can assist in the design of appropriate strategies, the leader of the group proposing this plan has organised a meeting at which local stakeholders can express their opinions about the concept of the plan and the control methods used.

Each of you has been assigned an identity. Be prepared to make a statement based on your identity and defend your point of view. You need to agree on whether the eradication should go ahead, and the methods used to carry out the eradication. Feel free to immerse yourself in your role!


  1. Department of Conservation worker –  Alise
  2. Animal Health Board inspector – Rueben
  3. Dairy farmer whose daughter’s dog died after scavenging a possum that had died from 1080 poisoning – Hannah
  4. Fur trapper – Jenny
  5. Animal rights activist and passionate Greenie – Jamie-Leigh
  6. Urban dweller – Ellyce

`Optogenetics’: The Stuff of Science Fiction?

Thursday, July 7th, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

When  I was  a wee lad back in Scotland  one of my favourite films  was  a movie called  `Fantastic Voyage’.
Based on an Issac Asimov novel it’s about a group of scientists who, along with their hi-tech sub are  miniaturised  and injected into the body of an emminent scientist. Their  mission:-  to  perform some very targeted brain surgery from within using lasers.
(The film is often most remembered by film reviewers for a  scene where our hero has to rip ‘giant’ (to them) `phagocytosing’ white blood cells from a wetsuit-clad Raquel Welsh.  At the time I was way too young to understand why `that scene’ was so appealing to grown-ups!   Especially when there were so many other cool scenes of them travelling  through the blood stream, lungs, inner ear and finally in the brain surrounded by  hanging  neurones!).
Anyway, when I read this article on `Optogenetics’ -a new technology that  potentially allows scientists to switch  individual neurones on and off by means of light –  the movie leapt into my mind and I  became intrigued to read on.

 It’s  a  facinatating concept  and another example of 21st century ingenuity from   the rapidly expanding world of nanotechnology.

Check it out here:-

or read full article here

P.S. For all the film buffs out there, a remake of ‘Fantastic Voyage’ in rumoured to be one of James Cameron’s latest projects.

Capacitor Charging-Discharging

Friday, July 1st, 2011 | KEV KNOWLES | No Comments

I’ve set up a virtual lab for you to investigate how a capacitor charges and discharges.

  1. Download this file : Capacitor
  2. Open the AC&DC circuit construction kit here
  3. Load the capacitor file. It will display a capacitor circuit.
  4. Add the voltage chart with the connections across the capacitor [red to the left, black to the right]
  5. Add the current chart with the connection beside the red V connector.
  6. The capacitor charges through the top loop [and switch]
  7. It discharges through the bottom loop.
  8. You can investigate the following
    1. Change the supply voltage Vs [initial 10V]
    2. Change the capacitance [initial 0.1F]
    3. Change the charge resistance [initial 10 ohm]
    4. Change the discharge resistance [initial 5 ohm]
  9. You could also use the built in stopwatch to investigate the time constant

Examination advice

Monday, June 20th, 2011 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Before the exam

  • Check the time and place for the exam.
  • Do not cram at the last minute.
  • Put your equipment in a clear plastic bag the night before.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Eat before the exam but not junk food.
  • Avoid people who make you feel nervous.
  • Stay calm and confident. Breathe deeply.
  • Don’t forget your equipment.
  • Be early for the exam.


In the exam

  • Stay calm. Relax. Stay focused.
  • Have confidence in yourself.
  • Answer the easy questions first.
  • Do not spend too long on each question. If you have extra time at the end return to the question.
  • Do not use twink, pencil or red pen.
  • Cross out mistakes with a single line.
  • Use diagrams to support your answer. Label clearly.
  • Read questions twice. Circle key terms.
  • Do not bulk up an answer. Keep to the point!
  • Proof read answers. Ask yourself – Have I written a complete answer? Have I answered the question that was asked?
  • Match the length of your answer to the space provided.
  • Watch out for plurals in questions. For example, ‘Name features of graphs’ means that you are required to write at least two features.
  • Label extra pages clearly and attach them to your exam booklet.

Study tips

Monday, June 20th, 2011 | hamvi58p | No Comments

Keeping on track

  • Believe in yourself.
  • Always do your best.
  • Set goals and try to stick to them.
  • Each small task you complete helps to keep you motivated for the next task.
  • Focus on your successes. Forgive yourself for making mistakes.
  • Reward yourself for each success.
  • Attend classes. Keep up to date and stay that way.
  • The sooner you start study, the sooner you’ll be free for other things.
  • If you are feeling low, ask a friend to give you a pep talk, to remind you of all your good qualities and abilities.

Arsenic-based life debate continues

Friday, June 17th, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

debate cartoonThere’s no more stimulating way to end a busy week than a good scientific controversy!

And we are NOT talking Global Warming  this time!

More than a dozen researchers voice their  concerns  about a 2010 paper that claims bacteria can use arsenic in place of phosphorus in its DNA and other biomolecules

Check out this story in Science from June 2, 2011 and associated links

So, which side are you on ????

Into ‘Chaos Theory’ ?

Friday, May 27th, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

 Ever heard of James Gleick? Fractal

James Gleick is an American author, journalist, and biographer.
His first book, Chaos: Making a New Science (1987) chronicled the development of chaos theory, and his subsequent books include Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything (1999), and biographies of Richard Feynman and Isaac Newton. His new book is The Information: a History, a Theory, a Flood (Fourth Estate, ISBN: 978-0-00-742311-8).
He is being interviewed by Kim Hill on RadioNZ National at 9 am tomorrow
28th May.

Check him out  at

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.

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.


Monday, May 23rd, 2011 | KEV KNOWLES | No Comments

This achievement standard involves describing the structure, physical properties, and reactions of organic compounds.

Aspects of organic chemistry includes:

  • structures of organic compounds including constitutional isomers and enantiomers
  • naming of organic compounds using IUPAC conventions
  • physical properties of organic compounds
  • reactions of organic compounds.

Organic compounds are limited to those containing one or more of the following functional groups: alkene, haloalkane, amine, alcohol, aldehyde, ketone, ester, carboxylic acid, acyl chloride, amide.

Structures and names of organic compounds are limited to those compounds containing no more than eight carbons.

Physical properties of organic compounds are limited to solubility, melting point, boiling point, rotation of plane-polarised light.

Reactions of organic compounds include acid-base, oxidation, elimination and substitution reactions. Substitution reactions include esterification, hydrolysis, and polymerisation.

  • acid-base is limited to reactions of carboxylic acids, amines, and carboxylate and alkylammonium salts
  • oxidation is limited to reactions using the following reagents: MnO4/H+, Cr2O72–/H+, Tollens’, Fehling’s and Benedict’s
  • elimination is limited to reactions using the following reagents: KOH in alcohol and concentrated H2SO4
  • substitution is limited to reactions using the following reagents: concentrated HCl, HBr, SOCl2, PCl3, PCl5, NaOH, KOH (in alcohol or aqueous solution), NH3, primary amines, primary alcohols/H+, primary alcohols, H2O/H+, H2O/OH
  • polymerisation is limited to formation of polyesters and polyamides including proteins.

Storms of our Grandchildren author in NZ

Friday, May 13th, 2011 | STEPHEN BRONI | No Comments

Dr. James Hansen, world renowned climate scientist and described as the ..”scientist with the most powerful and consisitent voice calling for intelligent action….”, is in NZ giving a series of public lectures around the country.

He will also be interviewed by Kim Hill on RadioNZ National  tomorrow morning. So if can’t get to one of his public talks  have a listen or download podcast of  his interview.

8:15  Sat 14th May James Hansen
Dr James Hansen is the Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and one of the best-known climate scientists in the world. He is visiting New Zealand to give a public lecture, Climate Change: a Scientific, Moral and Legal Issue, in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Dunedin, Gore and Christchurch, from 12 to 21 May. He will also participate in the Symposium on the Future of Coal (17 May, Wellington), and the Festival for the Planet (21 May, Auckland).!/JamesHansenNZTour?sk=events