big bang

Please put SPACE on our Science syllabus is currently hosting a survey of readers to find out what they consider to be the greatest mystery in Science. The leader by quite some way is “How did the universe begin?”

The theme for this year’s Science Week is “Our place in space“, and no doubt thousands of students will spend an hour or two attending special lectures which highlight this wonderful concept.

Then we all go back to our classrooms and never again hear about space, never mind the Big Bang.

If we want to grab students and hold onto them then while ScienceWeek is a nice resource, it is certainly not the answer. Why are we not telling students about the Big Bang, Quasars, Neutron Stars, Pulsars, Black Holes and all manner of other exotic phenomena as part of their science education? Because it’s not on either the Junior Science or Leaving Cert Physics syllabus (although the Big Bang does make an appearance in the Leaving Cert Religion syllabus).
And it’s never going to be on these syllabi unless we kick up a fuss. For that to happen there would first need to be a recognition of the problem. Why can’t Chris Horn and all those other commentators from the business world take an hour or two to look at our syllabi and then ask themselves – ‘would I want to study this for either three or six years?’

I don’t know if other teachers feel the same because there is so little communication between us, but that bone of contention is for another day.

This is just to serve as advance notice – next time you hear an ‘expert’ on the national airwaves bemoaning the low numbers of students taking up Physics or Chemistry, listen our to see if there is any evidence to indicate that the speaker is actually familiar with either syllabus. And listen very carefully for the one word that never gets mentioned by these business folk: wonder.


Science and Religion

Today Mr Dungan’s Leaving Cert Religion class joined our Applied Maths class for a discussion on Religion and Science. It started off very slowly but got a little heated before too long and the feedback was fairly positive with most students hoping we would repeat the exercise later in the year, but possibly in a more structured format.

I said I would post up relevant links, so here they are. The first two are the ones I showed on the day:

Richard Feynman on Religion & Mysticism

Uncertainty about the Big Bang
(I paused the clip when the scientists started going into detail on String Theory)

John Polkinghorne discusses Science and Religion here
Steven Weinberg discusses Science and Religion here

I think if we’re running this again two issues we might look at are
1.   free will
2. Creationism and Evolution (just enter “Ceationism and evolution” in a youtube search) but be wary, there are lots.