Just wanted to say happy birthday to Ol’ Captain Skellet and also well done on her contribution to the RIAus crochet coral reef. All the contributors for the reef have made a freaking awesome display. They’re starting up FREE workshops again, so if you want to try your hand at it, register here. I was lucky enough to get to visit the reef a couple of months ago and get a few snapshots, which are shared down below. They are quite amazing. The exhibition opens again in early December at the RiAus. Get in on it.
More pictures after the fold Continue reading
Yo, just so you know, I’m going to be reciting my 2nd-place winning poem tomorrow at the Great Big Science Read: Where worlds collide event held at the RiAus. It’s free and I’m going to be there, so if you have a couple of hours you should also come and get some culture, both artistic and bacterial (that’s what we in the poetry business call a double entendre).
Anyway, this post I’m going to analyse the poem that I wish had won –
Filled-valence prudes tut-tut
An extinguished flame
Aw, yeah, lustful oxygen. (Photo of James Kleinig flicking water on some tealights by Colin Sinclair)
I was taught in high school that all chemistry is electrons. But, of course, it is all eclipsed by things blowing up. Fire is the thing that I most closely relate to chemistry. It is a source of intrinsic passion, of instinctial awe, of heat and danger. And it’s all caused simply oxygen in the air binding to stuff (carbon in the above case). Oxygen is one of the most reactive elements out there, meaning that it has strong desire to bind and couple with other atoms and molecules. When it does so, it relaxes a bit and releases some energy. That energy is the heat.
But if atoms are already bundled up in couples of high affinity, not even oxygen can break that bond (under normal conditions). Nitrogen gas (N2) is an example of atoms that naturally strongly bound together. This bond means that the two nitrogen atoms share electrons (3 from each atom, in this case) and are both satisfied. Satisfaction as atoms are concerned is defined in terms of valency (a complex topic involving periodic tables, electrons and oxidation states). Once an atom’s valence is filled, then it is stable.
Nitrogen gas makes up 70% of the atmosphere. So we blow out mostly nitrogen when we exhale. What we do when we blow out a candle is basically surround the oxygen with highly stable nitrogen gas. Oxygen can’t bind to the nitrogen and can’t get to the carbon that it can bind to. What happens then is that the flame is extinguished because no heat is being produced.
Even though I’m a PhD student and I have been at Uni for more years than I care to calculate I can still be made to feel insignificant by a particularly applied child or teenager. It’s completely unreasonable but I’ve always disliked overachieving children, particularly if they are aware of their overachieving-ness. Junior Masterchef is a great example, I can not and will not watch that show. Stupid kids.
Having said that today will be different because as much as I hate smarmy little kids with gelled-up hair who can temper their own chocolate I’ve always been amazed by kids who ‘get’ science early on. I kind of drifted into science by following what I liked but there are those kids who from the outset seem to know they are scientists. Today I get to meet a bunch of them.
I stole this from your program of events - please don't sue 🙂
The Australian Science and Mathematics School is hosting the International Students Science Fair this year where more than 200 students from 15 countries will gather under the banner of ‘Science and Social Responsibility’ and present their own research. This is the 6th annual ISSF to be held with previous Fairs being held throughout Asia and next year they are off to Thailand and then Canada the year after that!
It’s by no means a picnic or a holiday. 7 am starts with days running till, in some cases, after 9pm and all the days are chock full of activities from lectures to hiking to what I am attending today, a poster presentation series.
So if you’ve got some spare time today do what I’m going to do and wander up the The Royal Institution of Australia and check out what promises to be very high quality science from some very clever school kids.
Hi kids, I’m back. And I’m still tired. But the show must go on.
This week I just wanted to update you on the scientific blogging public discussion, of which James and I were panel members. The audio recording of the event has now been put up on the RiAus website and can be found HERE. If you have a spare hour and a half, you should listen to it. Blogging, science, duck penises, it’s all there.
Also Mr. Ashleigh Brook took some photos for me on the night. Below are the not-so-blurry ones.
RiAus! Thank you for having us and giving us free beer.
Thomas and I are super excited because we have been validated! Well nearly. The South Australian branch of the Australian Science Communicators is having an event, a panel discussion on the importance of the scientific blogging community and we have been asked to be on that panel! We have only been at this for a little while but an invitation like this makes us feel we are doing something useful and interesting to someone.
It’s a public event which mean you can and should come along! Do you wan’t to know what we look like up close? Do you have questions for us you want to address face-to-face? Do you disagree with Thomas so much you want to hit him (take a deep breath, it should pass)? Well read the info below and follow the link. See you there!
Where: The Science Exchange, Exchange Place, Adelaide
When: Monday 18 January, 6.00pm – 8.00pm
Cost: free ASC or RiAus members, $5 students, $10 non-members. Book now online and cash payment can be made on the evening at reception.