Kinect the dots – applying knowledge of EM waves


The story

The latest must-have gaming gadget was released in the UK last week.  Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox allows gamers to interact with a games console in a completely new way. More

Lizard lunch

The story

The award for ‘most observant scientist during his lunch break’ this week must go to Ngo Van Tri of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology who noticed something odd about the tank of lizards at his local restaurant. More


The story

The society for Popular Astronomy is organising a Moonwatch event which starts this Wednesday (17th) and runs until the following Sunday.  During this time the Moon will go through a number of phases from crescent to full.

They have a website dedicated to the event which encourages teachers to study the Moon with their classes as it is visible after school from about 4:30pm onwards.  They advise using a telescope or binoculars if you want to study the surface of the Moon and have pages on the website which detail the features that you will be able to spot.

Teaching idea and resources

Inspired by the Moonwatch event I have uploaded a Moonwatch PowerPoint which contains some simple starter questions which can be used with a class when studying the solar system.

When I taught this in the past I used to tell my class that the Moon changed shape because it is made from cheese and space mice ate it.  When the whole Moon was eaten it disappeared, only to be replaced by a new ball of cheese from the Mouse God who lived behind the sun.  Of course – they told me that this was total rubbish but it made them think when I asked them how they were so sure – what proof did they have that my theory was wrong?

There is also a moon phases worksheet that asks students to predict what the Moon will look like from Earth during various points during its orbit.  They can check their answers by watching one of the animations linked below.

If you want your students to take part in the Moonwatch event but don’t have the equipment to view the moon, why not ask the students to complete a ‘Moon diary’ for the event?  They can view the Moon every night at home and then draw each phase.  You can then use their observations as a basis for discussion in the classroom.


The Moonwatch week website

Simple animation showing the phases of the moon.  Suitable for KS2/3 students.

More complicated animation suitable for high ability KS3 students and KS4.

Is alcohol the most dangerous drug?

The story

The headlines that hit every news broadcast that I heard on Monday reported that ‘alcohol is more dangerous than heroin’.  This was taken from a report put together by the Independent Committee on Drugs of which Professor Nutt, the sacked government chief drugs advisor, is a member. More

Bonfire night bonanza

Bonfire night gives a great opportunity to put an exciting spin on chemistry.

Of course – you can demonstrate flame tests; sprinkle iron filings into a Bunsen flame to make a pretty sparkler affect or carry out a spot of fire-writing (see weblink below).

All of these are fun but tend to fill the lab with smoke and mess, not to mention they can only be done with classes who are on their best behaviour. More

Space tourism

The story

How long will it be before visiting space will be as common an event as boarding a flight to Spain?  And will we be holidaying on Mars rather than Marbella in the future? More

Spooky Science

With Halloween falling at the end of half-term week this year a spooky science lesson is a great way of celebrating the end of (half) term or the beginning of a new one.

Teaching idea

I have found lots of great ideas from the web but my favourite collection is from Arbour Scientific (weblink below) and showcases a whole array of spooky, slimy and scary science experiments for a haunted laboratory.  This sounds like a great idea and would have been something that I would have loved to set up myself when teaching.  However for something a little less ambitious I have picked the idea that I think you could best incorporate into any lesson on light and reflection whether it falls around Halloween or not.

Pepper’s ghost is a famous illusion that was first used in Victorian theatres but can still be seen scaring people today in haunted houses and theme parks.  The video above shows the illusion set up in someone’s house and showing this would make a great starter to show the students to get them spooked.  You could then ask them how it was done (or is it a real ghost they are witnessing?).

You can also demonstrate this much simpler version using candles and a glass. The video below shows how I set it up in my kitchen.

Place one candle in an empty glass behind a sheet of glass or Perspex. Use blu-tack to stick it down into the glass.  Then place another identical candle the other side of the glass and light it.  You will have to move the lit candle around until an image of the flame can be seen on the unlit candle.  You can then pour water into the glass to complete the illusion and show that the candle will stay lit underwater.  If you don’t want to give the game away, you can shield the lit candle from the audience.

The students can then be asked to set up their own version using empty CD cases and nightlights which they use to attempt to explain how the trick works.  The idea here is to let the students explore without giving them any hints and see what they can come up with.  They can draw diagrams to help them explain and discussion should be encouraged.

Then, after hearing their ideas, you can help them to develop a final explanation by sharing with them the ray diagrams from the Naked Scientists website.

For a Halloween-based biology lesson on adaptation why not use Snapshot Science’s Vampire Biology lesson idea and resource?

Over to you…

Please add a comment of you have any ideas for Halloween (or Bonfire Night) lessons or have set up your own haunted laboratory. I would love to hear from you – don’t be scared!


Great resource for other Halloween science activities.

The Naked Scientists website – scroll down for ray diagrams to explain how the Pepper’s ghost illusion works

The light fantastic

The story

The Nikon Small World competition first began in 1974 and the results from the latest batch of entries were announced this week.  This annual event seeks out the latest and greatest photomicrographs (photographs taken using a light microscope). More

Teaching science using chocolate

Image: André Karwath

The story

Today is the start of Chocolate week in the UK.  This event celebrates the country’s favourite sweet treat with a host of cocoa-filled happenings around the country.  And what a great excuse opportunity for some science lessons using chocolate. More

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