Our marvellous oceans

I posted previously about Robert Ballard on TED.
Exploring the worlds’ hidden oceans

David Gallo is equally enthuasiastic and just as enthralling.

From the TED website:

David Gallo shows jaw-dropping footage of amazing sea creatures, including a color-shifting cuttlefish, a perfectly camouflaged octopus, and a Times Square’s worth of neon light displays from fish who live in the blackest depths of the ocean.

And this is a seperate, more recent presentation (13 minutes long).
From TED:

With vibrant video clips captured by submarines, David Gallo takes us to some of Earth’s darkest, most violent, toxic and beautiful habitats, the valleys and volcanic ridges of the oceans’ depths, where life is bizarre, resilient and shockingly abundant.

It is a really wonderful world out there, and sometimes I can’t help but feel so incredibly lucky to be living in a time where we get to see so much of it. Right before it all disappears.

Visit TED for more


Chain Reaction part 2 – Rube Goldberg machines

One of my very first blog posts was about a Chain Reaction project which I carry out with Transition Year students.

The technical term for these things is actually Rube Goldberg machines.
From Wikipedia:

A Rube Goldberg machine is an incredibly overengineered apparatus that performs a very simple task in very indirect and convoluted fashion (thus absurdly violating the principle of parsimony).

I like this too (also from wikipedia)

It has been argued that fissioning uranium to boil water under tremendous temperature and pressure renders nuclear power a Rube Goldberg machine.

One of these was featured recently on youtube:

I continue to believe that it’s a wonderful way for students to carry out project work, and I would certainly have no problem employing this guy as an engineer ahead of someone with similar qualilfications but higher grades.

There is even a Japanese Championship involving these contraptions.

Apparently learning can be fun after all . . .

Apology to Students: Matlab from Hell

To every student who ever gave up Physics – especially those who left my own class over the years; I feel your pain. My very last class in 2007 was involved an experience just like this with Alex and his calculator trying to use the formula for geostationary satellites.

I’m not so old that I don’t remember what this feels like, in my case it was accounting.

Had a happy 2007.
The highlight was getting to see three of biggest living heroes; Steve Earle (Midlands Music Festival), Guy Clark (Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival) and John Prine (NCH), all within six months of each other.

I am only allowed to say that now because in two days I am getting married.

Have a happy 2008

Guy Clark:

John Prine

Steve Earle:

Cool transition year project – Chain Reaction

“The Way Things Go” is a wonderful short film of a chain reaction put together in some large warehouse.

At some stage I was asked ‘why can’t we do that’?, and I thought ‘Well why not’?
So recently I gave the task to my transition years, and they have taken to it like no other project or experiment they have ever done (in physics at least).
They have to come up with their own design, use their own resources, it can be as simple or as complex as they wish.
In fact as an engineering project it is very useful because those who initially wanted everything in it, quickly realised how unpractical this is.
There is also serious teamwork involved, and whose who plan in advance tend to do best.

The most successful so far have been the teams who go for short simple parts.
They can they put the final project together inside teh lab or outside in a field. We video it, and they vote for the best project.

I used to be uncomfortable with this, primarily because I was handing over the class to the students, and therefore I had less control, but now I can see so many benifits that I would be very upset if I couldn’t use this any more.

So for any other physics teachers out there (and there’s no reason why it has to be just physics) why not give it a go?

We could always compare projects and have an inter-school challenge!
You don’t need any equipment, budget, or even much preparation on your part; it is, as they say, a win-win situation.