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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The World's Biggest Experiment and Making Science a Little easier to Remember

Today is the Nobel Prize Ceremony in Stockholm Sweden. If you catch this post in time, then you can watch it LIVE here. Or probably watch it later when you have a chance.

Every once in a while I will catch an image on the web that someone has used to demonstrate a scientific concept very succinctly. Sometimes I will see one that I can use myself. As an instructor, I have a great interest in pedagogy, which essentially can be defined as "strategies of instruction". I've attended courses and discussed these matters with other instructors and have read books on the topic (such as What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain), but overall,  it has been an intuitive exercise. How one instructs others ultimately comes from who you are and your objectives for teaching. It is about understanding how people learn and grappling with the difficult material to make it easier to transmit to others so they understand. Some learn better through images, some through sound, some through movement and touch. I will implement as many of these aspects into teaching as possible. Mostly, though, people respond to an instructor who is truly enjoying themself!

Here are a couple of images for your enjoyment and possible accidental learning pleasure!

gummy/igneouscats.jpg I want to give credit to someone for this image, but I don't know who originally labeled it. The image is titled "Igneous Cats".

Remember that there are three classifications of rocks:igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. Igneous are the ones that are formed from hot magma. I'll let you look the other ones up yourself.

Mafic is the term used for those rocks with heavier elements. "Ma" comes from the word "magnesium" and "fic" comes from the lating word for "iron" These rocks, such as basalt, are usually dark in color.








gummy/basalt.jpg     gummy/DioriteUSGOV.jpg    gummy/RhyoliteUSGOV_small.jpg   

Some igneous rocks, to match the cats. In order: mafic (basalt), intermediate (diorite) and felsic (rhyolite) igneous rocks

Felsic rocks have fewer heavier elements and tend to have more silica and oxygen making them a lighter color, such as rhyolite or granite. "Fel" comes from the word "felspar" and "sic" is supposed to represent silica. 

Felsic rocks are more purified forms of mafic rock and because the change over process is slow, it should come as no surprise that there are intermediate stages!

Let's leave geology and move on to genetics! I have run many Illinois State Science Olympiad competitions in this field, and like all biologists, know a thing or two about this topic.

First some background. Recall that sections of DNA can form groups that code for a specific protein, for instance one that determines your hair color. These groups are called GENES. A gene is like a recipe. Your mother and your father both contribute recipes to you, which they inherited from their parents. Let's choose cake recipes for example. Your mom's recipe may call for more cocoa and your dad's for more vanilla or butter. Variations in the recipe for the same protein are called ALLELES. When one recipe wins out, that is called the DOMINANT recipe (allele) and the unused one is called RECESSIVE. But, let's say you can take the best (or worst, for that matter) ingredients from both to make something in between (and possibly better), this is called CODOMINANCE.

Here is an image I ran across several months ago. I think it is darling, but most importantly, it expresses the genetic concept of CODOMINANCE in inheritance.

gummy/codominance.jpgIf clothing patterns were inheritable (and thank goodness it isn't--most children would not want to dress like their parents.) imagine if the dad's alleles were dominant and the mother's were recessive for shirt stripes. What would the little child's shirt look like?

 I'd be thrilled if you shared your images that don't seem like they are science but succinctly demonstrate a scientific concept!

One more thing. You will keep that recessive recipe (allele) and might pass it along to your children. That recipe might be "better" than your partner's, and then it will be dominant again, or it can be combined and be codominant!

Isn't genetics grand?





Finally, the Large Hadron Collider is finally up and running, and has even broken energy records for colliding particles together. Sometimes particles are accelerated and focused with magnets and smashed into a stationary object. The particles that fly off are detected and lost energies calculated. It is complex and fascinating. But, as a rule of physics, if you send two speeding objects colliding into each other, you essentially double the energy of the impact, and that is the purpose of a "collider". The Large Hadron Collider is colliding tiny beams of protons at high energies to see what those are made of. There is so much to learn an understand about the whole process. I am grateful for authors like Paul Halpern, a master at making science understandable (he wrote "What's Science Ever Done for Us: What the Simpsons Can Teach Us About Physics, Robots, Life and the Universe") who has written a book to help us understand the world's largest science experiment to date--Collider. I reviewed his book in this video. You will also see a pop-up book about the experiment called Voyage to the Heart of Matter.

Kindly, Joanne
Wed, December 9, 2009 | link 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Analyzing a cloud and gummi bears teach us about osmosis & crystallization

As most of you know, I am on twitter (also Facebook, youtube and LinkedIn --and a few other places if you care to connect). I have met some of the most amazing science communicators in this forum. I am also pleased to say I have an enthusiastic science fan base, even among people I wouldn't expect to be so. My following is growing and I am enjoying the interaction I have online. I've learned a lot about science, about expressing oneself succinctly and wisely and about what really turns people on to science!

The other day I noticed a buzz about people creating a "tweet cloud", a way for people to look at what they have been saying over the course of a few month. I read those of others with fascination and decided to have one done for me. Here is the result.

tweetcloud1.jpgI am pleased to report that my top three words are "Thanks, Science, and Books". The thanks makes sense because I am very grateful and extraordinarily flattered that I have so many followers who have a fascination with science and are willing to give so much attention to science!

Science: that's so obvious, it almost hurts! Books, of course, because I am thrilled to share about popular science books that are available. At least I try.

Not a surprise to see video, blog, scientists, tissue engineering, students, stem cells and of course, gummi bears.

 And, if you want to follow me on twitter, please do so. I'm @sciencegoddess. If you have science, geek, nerd or something similar in your bio, you're guaranteed a follow back!

I have a new gummi bear video for you. Like you may have heard, sometimes science happens by accident and not design, and that's what's happened here. I was hoping to make my gummi bear more conducive to current by soaking it in salt water and (duh) I made it shrink and made the salt come crashing out of solution to form crystals. See the end results here in this video and consider giving it a try at home. I will post some info on the Gummi Science page!

It is exam time here at U of I, but I have much to share with all of you and will try to get a few more posts up very soon.

Until next time, 

Kindly, Joanne

Sun, December 6, 2009 | link 

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