Nobel news

The winners of the 2012 Nobel prizes were announced last week.

I thought I would post some videos that explain the work of the winning scientists which you can use to inspire the next generation of scientists.


LED: Light Emitting (whilst) Dancing

This video shows an amazing new type of light show at a recent Coldplay concert. Each audience member is given a wristband containing LEDs. These are controlled centrally so they light up in time to the music – a trully interactive experience.
Each wristband has a receiver, which allows data to be sent via radiowaves from a transmitter attached to a computer.
Showing the video would make an engaging start to a lesson on the uses of radiowaves.

Lighting the Olympic flame

Image: Jon Candy @Flickr

The story

The flame that will burn during the London Olympic Games was lit at Olympia, the birthplace of the Ancient Olympics, last Thursday. The torch is lit using the same method as it was at the ancient Olympic Games, a parabolic mirror.


How to see around corners

image: CILAS @ wikimedia

A simple starter I often used when introducing the topic of light with year 8 was to give them a problem to solve: More

Solving the mysteries of the Earth

It was a couple of earth-science stories that caught my attention this week. After the recent earthquakes that shook Japan and New Zealand, predicting where and when the next big seismic event will happen is a holy grail to seismologists. More

Kinect the dots – applying knowledge of EM waves

Image: popculturegeek.com

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

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

Seismic shocker

Image: Schwede66

The story

This photo shows some of the devastation caused by the 7.4 magnitude earthquake that hit New Zealand’s South Island on September 4th. More

Most massive (not biggest) star discovered

The story:

Astronomers discovered a huge star in a nearby galaxy last week.  R136a1, part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, is estimated to have a mass 265 times more than the sun and to shine around a million times more brightly. More

What’s plastic, very annoying and heard at football matches?


Nope, not a CD of the latest repetitive football anthem but the vuvezela – a plastic horn that gets blown by South African football fans at matches. This instrument/weapon of torture is fast becoming one of the most talked about subjects in this year’s World Cup.

The reason for the scientific interest is that it can be loud – very loud. More

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