Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Read about innovative ideas and vote for your favorite.

Students from grades 9-12 were asked to come up with innovative ideas in the areas of renewable energy, aerospace exploration, green schools and space nutrition. Teams competed by constructing their ideas and preparing to market them. There is a $5000 prize awaiting the winner. You can read about the best ideas to reach the finals and vote for the one you think should win. You have from March 29 to April 9 to vote. Some of the ideas are quite remarkable. Take a look at www.conradawards.org

Monday, March 22, 2010

Engineering at Catlin Gabel.....

15 intripid Winterimers attempted to build go karts in 4 days from bits of plywood, 2x4 and 6.5 hp motors. Aided by go kart expert Dick Shoemaker (former Catlin 6th grade teacher) and parent Jeff Maier, the boys did amazingly well, with 3 getting finished and 2 just needing the engine to be attached. One group managed to build and wreck their go kart in those 4 days, crashing in to the Modern Languages building.
The slideshow below documents the process from start to (almost) finish - I'll add more photos and a movie of the project when we get back from Spring Break (as long as Matthew has got it done by then)

Why, Discovery Channel, Why?

The BBC Wildlife/Discovery Channel's latest wildlife documentary series "Life" started last night, and it is a truly amazing feat of film making. Expecting to hear David Attenborough's hushed tones describing the action, I was horrified to hear the voice of Oprah Winfrey telling us about nature's wonders (I will admit I am slightly biased, because Attenborough is one of my personal heroes and high up on the list of people I'd like to meet). Despite this shock the footage of flies with inflatable eyes, the macaque with a hammer and the usual (but still incredible) predator-prey chases were captivating. It is well worth watching, especially for those with HD.

I also found the Arkive website with lots of wildlife images and footage when searching for clips of a dancing sifaka - a nimble lemur that I spent a whole Adv Bio class trying to remember the name of. It is a great site on which you could spend hours browsing the videos and images. Perfect for when the spring break weather is not cooperating and you are stuck inside.....

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hummingbird Nest

This is a must see. If you think Lost is a good show, you have another thing coming. Here is a live web-cam on a nest with hummingbirds. I can't wait until they hatch, neither can 4,975 other bird enthusiasts right now. She just left, here are the eggs.

Cool Science News: insomniac reindeer and poop-eating plants

A couple of stories caught the eyes of our students over the weekend, and this is the perfect forum for bringing them to the attention of a wider audience.
The advanced biology class recently covered the role of the pineal gland and melatonin in the control of circadian rhythms (better known as your "body clock"). Melatonin secretion fluctuates during a 24h period to signal when to sleep and when to be awake. Anyone who has made the trek across the atlantic is all to familiar of the consequences of a confused pineal gland, with scientific fingers pointing at it as the culprit behind jet lag. Our circadian rhythms are affected by day length, so what happens when you don't have any nights (or any days), like the reindeer of the arctic? Researchers have discovered that they have switched off their biological clock, and you can read the full article here. (Thanks to Kent Hayes for bringing this to my attention).

In the environmental science class, we looked at how useful poop can be. Electricity can be generated by fermenting cow waste, and our near neighbors in Washington are investigating this option (the NPR story and broadcast can be found here). Avid gardeners are adding manure to their soil as spring arrives, and it turns out that we are not the only ones making use of others' waste. Carnivorous plants are famous for their elaborate mechanisms for catching and digesting animals to supplement their nutrient supply from the soil (think of venus flytraps and pitcher plants), but it now seems that some of them are more coprophagous than bloodthirsty: researchers in Malaysia have discovered that the giant pitcher plants found there are more interested in the rodent droppings than the rodents themselves - click here for the full story.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chemistry Magic Show

Today the Advanced Chemistry class prepared a chemistry show for Chris's 8th grade scientists. About 30 middle schoolers were entertained with a variety of chemical reactions, most of which involved setting fire to something. A short highlights reel is featured below.
Thanks to the seniors involved, to Becky and Chris for organizing this and to Nathaniel for stepping in to supervise the rehearsals whilst Becky hikes through the Himalayas.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"The Human Camera"

Here is a remarkable video about the amazing capabilities of the human brain. In this case it is the damaged human brain of a savant from Great Britain named Stephen Wiltshire. In Savants, certain normal abilities of the brain are missing and the parts of the brain that still work develop superhuman capabilities. This You Tube film documents Stephen's incredible skill in response to a challenge, something almost all savants enjoy. Just like you and me, they are proud to show off what they do well.

Another popular major motion picture you can watch about a savant is titled "Rain Man," starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in one of his earliest roles before he was a star. Dustin Hoffman plays the role of a savant based on the life of a real savant. Dustin spent much time with the savant, studying his behavior and mannerisms before playing the role.

If you don't know about savants, (they used to be insensitively referred to as "idiot savants" because although they have some remarkable capabilities, they may not be able to tell you how much change you get for a dollar if you spend seventy five cents) you will be amazed by this story. If you already know about savants, you will still be amazed by this story. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Skinput: Appropriating the Body as an Input Surface (CHI 2010)

Every time someone says "welcome to the future" after hearing about or seeing a new piece of technology we fell in love with watching our Saturday cartoons growing up I think, the future is now.

This is a way cool application of our dermal landscape.

Water Pollution (Part II) : Heavy Metals

In the second Environmental Science project to be featured on The Coverslip, Erica and Christine (and their environmental crusader Danger Ranger) address the issues surrounding heavy metal pollution in water in the podcast below. The audio is a bit quiet for the first few seconds, but is great when Erica and Christine start talking. Click here for the first project published on The Coverslip, which is a video on domestic water pollution.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Credit Where Credit's Due.....

When we decided in a whole-school science dept meeting to set up this blog, I immediately thought of the efforts of my former colleagues at St. Columba's College in Dublin, Ireland. They set up "The Frog Blog" just over a year ago, and recently celebrated their 500th post. They have recently expanded into podcasting and have added a Twitter feed and Facebook page. Whilst we are still embryonic (maybe foetal now, and I make no apologies for my spelling) compared to their infant site, those 500 posts in such a short space of time are something we can aspire to. Hopefully, we could even appear on their list of "sites we like"....
So, if you have any interesting science stories or want to contribute in any way to this site, please contact us with your ideas and we will happily post them and give you full credit.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

1000000000000000000000000000 Hella-Rad

Finally, a prefix that is easy to remember, HELLA. Austin Sendek a graduate student at UC Davis has started a facebook petition to establish a new prefix to denote 10 to the 27th power. That's a 1 followed by 27 zeros.

A Suggestion for 10 ^-27 is hello-

Just in case you are rusty in your System Internationale Prefixes:
10^24 yotta
10^21 zetta
10^18 exa
10^15 peta
10^12 tera
10^9 giga
10^6 mega
10^3 kilo
10^2 hecto
10^1 deka

10^-1 deci
10^-2 centi
10^-3 milli
10^-6 micro
10^-9 nano
10^-12 pico
10^-15 femto
10^-18 atto
10^-21 zepto
10^-24 yocto