Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Ciència per passar l'estona

M'estic llegint el llibre Professors Povey's Perplexing Problems, un llibre amb un bon recull de problemes de física i alguns de matemàtiques. Els problemes estan solucionats i comentats, cadascun té un nivell de dificultat i va acompanyat d'un sistema de puntuació i una pàgina web amb més material.

Aquest és un d'aquells llibre que és llegeixen a estones, i entre estona i estona, penses. I un cop llegeixes la solució, en alguns casos et presenta un punt de vista diferent del que ja saps.

Hi ha altres llibres com aquest, Martin Gardner en té uns quants, i el llibre de Ciència Recreativa, un recull inicial de José Estalella, també és molt recomanable.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Bottoms up on this wastewater transformed into drinking water! Would you drink it?

This is a tweet from the National Geographic Channel about reusing waste water for drinking water. Would you want to drink this? Then again do you know what you drink normally anyway.

This was supplied by a parent of the school (who shall remain nameless unless she wishes to reveal her identity) who had read the post on the formation of the environmental committee here in Oak House.

More please!!

Enjoy this video

Friday, 23 October 2015

Oak House School Environmental Committee

Oak House School Environmental Committee

We have 7.3 billion people currently living on our planet and that is due to increase to 9 billion by 2050. To feed and entertain this number, non-renewable resources are running out and renewable ones are being used unsustainably. Carbon emissions continue to rise, leading to greenhouse effect, global warming and climate change.

We must do something to slow and stop these changes that we are making to our planet otherwise we and our children will pay the price.

So what can we do? Well it can start with this:

We are currently looking for students and teachers who wish to form an Environmental Committee.

The roles of this environmental committee will be many, including:
·         Environmental assessment of the school and its environs.
·         Development of an environmental action plan.
·         Involvement in projects deriving from this action plan.
·         Transmitting the findings and the work of the committee to the students and wider public.

Who should join this committee?
If you are someone who is interested by the environment and what we are doing to it.
If you are concerned about the nature of consumerism and its negative effects.
If you like the applications of Science.
If you are planning to study IGCSE Environmental Management or IB Environmental Systems.
If you are thinking about a career in the area of environmental sciences.

What should you do?
Contact your tutor.
Contact your Science teacher.

When by?
We need to know who is interested by Friday October 30th
First meeting: Wednesday October 4th @ 11am!

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors: we borrow it from our children.”

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Happy birthday Alfred Nobel

This Wednesday, the 21st of October, in 1833, Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm, Sweden.
Alfred Nobel was a pacifist at heart but an inventor by nature. He held 355 patents in the fields of electrochemistry, optics, biology and physiology. His first patent was an English patent, filed in 1857, was for a gas meter. title was given to him due to Nobel inventing, and making most of his vast fortune off of, dynamite and
Ironically, his most famous invention was dynamite! He also discovered several other types of explosives, such as “ballistite”, which was the precursor to quite a lot of military grade explosive devices. These discoveries were to make him extremely wealthy. Unfortunately for Alfred, it also resulted in him being known as “ The Merchant of Death”.
Nobel came up with the idea of using his money for the Nobel Prizes after his brother, Ludvig, died in 1888 and a French newspaper mistakenly thought it had been Alfred Nobel himself who had died.  The newspaper published the obituary under the title: “The Merchant of Death is Dead”, going on to state: “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”
When Nobel read this, he began thinking of how to improve his public image after his death and decided on leaving his enormous fortune to fund a set of prizes named after himself. 
He established the Nobel Prizes in his will. The prizes, which were first awarded in 1901, have become highly distinguished awards. 
There were 5 categories of prize – physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace (economics was added in 1969). Contenders must be nominated and they cannot nominate themselves. The prize consists of a medal, a diploma and a sum of money. They are awarded every 5 years and there are approximately 250 nominations for each prize! 

Which one of our laboratories is named after a Nobel Prize winner? Do you know the names and achievements of these other Nobel Prize winners?

If you could be nominated for a Nobel Prize, what would it be for? 

Monday, 19 October 2015

We create our reality

"Scientific studies show that the decision making areas of the human brain aren't fully developed until the age of 25". "So then we have an excuse for this". "Factory installed".

You are in class staring at the whiteboard. How is it that you see it? It's light reflecting from its surface and falling into your eye. You know this because if you switch the light off, you stop seeing the whiteboard. Now, light is apparently made of little particles called "photons". These photons enter your retina and generate electrical impulses inside your brain, this electrical signal somehow creates the image you are experiencing of the whiteboard.

So, if you followed this, you might realize that what you see, is actually CREATED in your brain from the information that the photons give it. Your brain is creating the whiteness of the whiteboard, the shape, the blue ink of the notes that the teacher writes, even the meaning of the words written!

This fascinating talk takes us through the consequences of this amazing fact, if the brain creates our reality, then it becomes hugely important to take care of the brain. A top level neuroscientists tells us why we should seek challenges but avoid stress, why teenagers are bad desicion makers and what we can do to nurture our brain. This is done in the first half (25min).

The rest of the talk focuses on the act of meditation and what neourlogy can tell us about its benefits for the brain.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Why is the ground so white and bright?

With the addition of the new Bachillerato/IB building has come a new colour scheme for the walkways outside the laboratories and going down to the main gate. They say it is in keeping with the colour scheme of the new building, but is there a more environmental reason at play?

Students have said that the surface is too bright and they find it difficult to see. Students and teachers using these walkways have to squint on very sunny days making us all look a little more stressed than we would normally look.

So how is this surface having an environmental impact?

The fact that the surface is reflecting the light (hence very bright) it means that not as much light is being absorbed and converted to heat. The surface is therefore cooler meaning the air above is also cooler. This reflected light should hopefully head off into space and not affect the planet again. The previous surface was red in colour and used to absorb a lot of sunlight energy converting it to heat. This heat would be radiated as infra-red (IR) radiation that would heat the air making it warmer outside the labs. More importantly, this heat would also be trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and increase greenhouse effect and global warming which is a very serious problem we are currently facing. So is Oak House reducing global warming by painting its walkways a very light colour?

A test of the difference in the temperature of the surfaces is to check the light surface and red steps outside the labs. Come and feel the difference yourself to see!

First in Combined Science in Spain 2014

Adriana C. was awarded her certificate for achieving first place in the IGCSE Combined Science exam in Spain for June 2014. This is the third consecutive year that students have managed to achieve this accolade. Let’s see how this year’s group does.

Well done to Adriana! Another achievement to add to the long list!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Nobel de Física 2015

 Aquest mes s'ha donat a conèixer el premi Nobel de Física, i aquest any el comparteixen responsables de dos experiments relacionats amb els neutrins: Takaaki Kajita i Arthur B. McDonaldinvestigadors al Super-Kamiokande i al SNOLAB, respectivament. 

Aquests físics s'afegeixen a una llarga tradició de donar premis Nobels de física a físics experimentals. Per algun motiu, els teòrics no són tan populars, i hi ha casos en que el Nobel el rep, no qui ha fet la teoria, si no qui l'ha confirmada. 

Aquests dos experiments investiguen els neutrins que arriben a la Terra de l'espai, però degut a la natura poc interactiva dels neutrins, ho fan sota terra. 

Els neutrins, tot i ser les partícules més abundants a l'Univers, possiblement siguin de les més desconegudes, si no tenim en compte la matèria fosca, de la que l'únic que sabem és el que no pot ser: res que conneguem.

Els neutrins són una de les partícules fonamentals del Model Standard, i fonamentals per la història de  l'Univers. 

Per si algú està interessat en saber més, a Symmetry Magazine hi ha un bon resum (i als articles que hi enllaça).  

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Adriana C. and Joves i Ciència

Adriana C. is one of our students in IB1. Last May she was accepted to participate in the Joves i Ciència program along with Isabel Lammers (see last week’s newsletter). In July she went on a two week residential course and here is her account of what happened….

Joves i Ciència was a truly amazing and unique experience, probably one of the best in my life! I participated in the biomedicine project, and our objective was to modify an active agent found in lavender in order to get a possible drug for Alzheimer’s. The project was divided into two main parts: the first focused on the investigation and isolation of BACE-1, a protein involved in Alzheimer’s, and, once we had its three-dimensional structure, we passed on to the second part. This part was dedicated to the design of the drug and the study of its interaction with BACE-1, using computational biology in order to do so. Both parts were combined with theory lessons in order to understand what we were doing.

Although most of the time there was dedicated to science, we had plenty of time to socialise, play instruments and enjoy the beautiful surroundings! We did a whole day outing and had activities every evening. These included a star observation, a scientific comedy show and an orientation race where we all ended up being covered in mud! The people there were amazing and I made great friends.

When it comes to applying for Joves i Ciència, the first step is sending a written application, which includes a motivation letter saying why you chose the project and an answer to a question related to the project. Then, if you are accepted onto the second phase, you attend an interview. I personally didn’t prepare for it, but you can if that makes you feel more confident. Just keep in mind that they’re not interested in seeing how much you know, but how you can think out answers to questions you don’t know, so just show them all of your thinking! It’s true that it’s a competitive program to get into, but no one felt confident of getting in when they applied and it’s certainly worth giving it a try!

Adriana C. IB1

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Joves i Ciència

Isabel Lammers (see previous post) had also been selected for the prestigious and select program “JOVES I CIÈNCIA” which runs over three years. Her first installment occurred at the start of July over two weeks and this is Isabel telling us what happened and what she did in order to be selected:

The Experience:

Going to Joves i Ciencia has been one of the most incredible experiences in my life. I chose the project on DNA, evolution and biodiversity. This first year we got to work in a laboratory in the Pyrennees using modern techniques like PCR and agarose gel electrophoresis. We also had lessons taught by some brilliant researchers from the CRG (Centre de Regulació Genòmica). We learned how to track genetic diseases, extract and sequence DNA, check for genetically modified food and lots more including how to use cool lab equipment. But it wasn’t all work; we had lots of fun too! We played games at night, went on an excursion, made great friends, explored species of the Pyrenees, watched an exciting film and even had a hilarious scientific comedy show organised for us.

The Selection:

Since there is a long selection process and a low acceptance rate, I never thought I stood much of a chance of getting in. The first part is written and I had to write about my interests, the reason I wanted to go and answer a long question. Later on I got told I had passed onto the second selection process where in an interview lasting half an hour I had to talk about myself, answer some questions and carry out a simple experiment. I thought it went terribly but after an agonizingly long time I was told I’d been accepted. So I highly recommend anyone interested in science to give it a go!

Well done to Isabel and we look forward to seeing how she develops within this program!

If you are a student or parent and are interested in pursuing any of these programs, please feel free to contact the Science Department at r.troy@oakhouseschool.com or a.raig@oakhouseschool.com or leave a comment below.

Cosmo Caixa Explainers

Maybe of our students pursue extracurricular activities that extend their school studies and one such student is Isabel Lammers.

Isabel had recently applied and been accepted for the youth program “EXPLAINERS” run by Cosmo Caixa, the Science Museum here in Barcelona.

Explainers are, and I quote:  “students, chosen for their enthusiasm, knowledge and diversity, who will explain exhibits on the museum floor and answer questions from visitors”.

The program recognizes a dual purpose in having secondary students work with the public:
  • ·         to serve the museum by providing an enthusiastic face to visitors and staff;
  • ·         to provide a first professional experience to participants who might not otherwise consider a career in the sciences or museum related fields.

 As part of this program, Isabel will have classes, in  a Business school, in public relations, (a very useful skill to have). She will also be getting a tour of the labs in the IQS (Institut Quimic de Sarria) which is a fantastically equipped third level educational institution.

Isabel is very lucky to get an opportunity like this. Watch this space to see how she got on!

A contented Isabel skiving off from her IB1 Chemistry class.