One for our US readers: the American Chemical Society is launching a “Chemistry Champions” search for chemists who excel at performance and communication.
I’ve a bunch of concerns about the competition (judging by number of YouTube views? Really?). Also, their suggested two minutes to talk about your research is an extremely awkward duration – 2:30 is a great length, but 2:00 is on a difficult cusp. My advice to anyone entering would be: write something stellar that’s 90 seconds long. Two minutes will encourage you to try for too many ideas which you won’t, in the end, be able to cram in, so do one thing well, even if it’s shorter.
Anyway, this launch video is terrific. Endearingly low production values show that a great performance shines through regardless, which is exactly the message of the competition. It’s very well judged.
More details and rules on the ACS website. Deadline for submissions is 6th June. #chemchamps
I threw this together last night to try out an arrangement for a practical demo Elin is planning to build for a new show at the Centre for Life. I thought it might find wider use than just us sitting on the sofa saying “Coo!”. To be fair, it already has found wider use: Rosy from Cambridge Science Centre is staying with us, and was also saying “Coo!”.
One of the things that’s rather hard to wrap your head around when looking at waves in water is that the individual bits of water don’t translate with the wave propagation. Which rather obviously has to be the case once you realise you’ve been staring at the waves coming towards you for quite some time and yet the sea (tides permitting) hasn’t swept you away. Nevertheless, it’s one of those situations where a diagram helps, and an animated diagram helps a lot.
So here’s that animated diagram. For anyone who cares about such things, I built this in Apple Motion: it’s one (rotating) object, replicated with a rotation shift, which makes it very easy to play with different arrangements. It’s particularly interesting when the movement discs overlap. Maybe I’ll build another animation of that…
Anyway, you’re welcome to use the clip, though you’ll want to download and use this high-definition version (3Mb .mov, right-click and ’Save target as…’, and all that). It should loop smoothly enough.
As you know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, we’re big fans of using demonstrations for science teaching and have made a bunch of films about how and why to use them in the classroom. Our latest films are different – they’re about class practicals and we hope they show how these particular practicals could be used to teach specific aspects of Biology, as well as demonstrating how practicals in general might be approached to ensure their effectiveness.
The film above shows various ways to use “algal balls” in Biology practicals – they’re fun to make and a fantastic tool for doing quantitative investigations of photosynthesis. There’s more information and detailed instructions over at the SAPS website.
We’re grateful to the lovely people at Science & Plants for Schools (SAPS) for asking us to make the films – we had a blast working with them and staff from the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education.
Vikki Burns was one of this year’s FameLab UK finalists. In this film, she describes her experience of drying on stage during the final, and what happened next. It’s a terrific, brave, positive film, and I’m hugely impressed with Vikki for saying what she does here. If you’re an academic thinking about entering FameLab, or of taking part in Bright Club or Science Showoff or the like, watching this film might reassure you that audiences are lovely.
It’s worth watching right through, though, because in some ways the second half of the film is even more useful. It’s Vikki’s final piece from FameLab. Get past the inevitably-artificial feel of watching a performance crafted for a stage being delivered to the unblinking gaze of a video camera, and I think the piece is instructive.
Continue reading Treatment, demonstrations, and complexity
As the regular reader will know, I’m a skeptic when it comes to video demonstrations. There are times, however, when the scale of video and the resources of broadcast make something possible which otherwise wouldn’t be.
This is one such demo. Great stuff.
[hat-tip: Siân Harris, via Twitter.]
At last week’s Science Communication Conference, I joined a plenary panel to discuss what’s changed in the 12 years the conference has been running. I’ve been kicking around in the sector for more like 25 years so I played a bit fast and loose with the timescale, but my little spot in the limelight went more-or-less as follows:
Continue reading 25 years of science communication progress
In the previous post I wrote about the challenge of catching and holding peoples’ attention with electronics and programming activities – if you’ve seen DEMO: The Movie you’ll know I’m quite big on attention.
The Arduino microcontroller platform is a terrific tool, but it’s hard to present a project which is both immediately appealing and instructive. Projects tend to be fun but complex, or useful-but-dry tutorials. As with many fields of life, I suspect the answer is: robots.
Lots of robots.
Continue reading Is Mirobot the droid we’ve been looking for?
Pick a random stall at Maker Faire UK and there’s a fair chance it’ll have flashing LEDs. And where there’s a flashing LED, there’s usually a little blue circuitboard driving it. The blue board is the famous Arduino, a family of open-source microcontrollers designed to allow easy interaction between code you write and real-world sensors and actuators.
There’s a complex and ever-expanding ecosystem of Arduino-compatible boards and interface units, and to a novice it’s all a bit overwhelming. I am that novice. Indeed, the list of Arduino projects I’ve completed looks like this:
- [insert list of future projects here]
However, awareness of what’s possible expands one’s set of available tools, and Arduino feels like the sort of thing I might, at some point, find useful. So every now and then I tinker a little. My tentative, toe-in-the-water approach to Arduino goes like this:
Continue reading Arduino: first steps