Tag Archives: Weird science

Stinky science

I ordered a beautiful handmade Harris Tweed hat online and was excited when it arrived. I opened the envelope and was myself enveloped with a chemical cocktail of naphthalene.

Mothballs. Ugh.

This isn’t the sort of smell you can mask with a spray either, in the warm sun or the heat of the fireside, the hat of eternal stench would again begin to emit it’s chem-pong, and probably transfer it to my hair!

Aye, this stinky article has tae be taken doon with guid science.

Something elemental to cast out the demonic stench.

So….carbon, or precisely,  activated carbon, or activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been treated with oxygen to open up millions of tiny pores between the carbon atoms.

It’s available from pet shops because it’s used in aquarium filtration. It’s allegedly pretty good at absorbing some chemicals, with mothball stench being something on it’s chem hit-list. It’s gone into a box with the offending article and will be subjected to period ic sniff tests.


Really hoping that it works!

The luminous flame

beautiful bunsens

In January this year, I started a new job, still within eLearning, but based in science and engineering. This is pretty much a dream discipline for me, and like I knew it would, it has reignited the smouldering fire of what can only be described as nutty enthusiasm for this area.

To be clear, in an academic sense, I come from a non-science background, and for some reason I always feel I have to make this disclaimer when talking about science. I also feel nervously unintelligent around scientists and mathematicians.

Which is quite strange. Surely science isn’t just for scientists? I googled, and I’m composed of:

oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, with a lot of that in the form of water. The remaining 4 percent is a sparse sampling of the periodic table of elements. (Live Science)

There we go. I think that I’m, like all of us, fairly hooked up in this “science” thing. So, when I walk into a tutorial room and see a whiteboard filled with something like this:


I’m more than curious about what it means. It matters. I want to know.

At this, the start of my journey, that image is above, is a story and a game.  A game of symbols.  An important beautiful game that many people dedicate their lives and careers to. People play the game, by learning about the symbols and the rules that go with the symbols. Just because it seems impenetrable to some of us, it doesn’t mean that we can be interested in the story about this. What is it about? Why does it matter? Why does it feel remote, when it’s all about everything that is us, and is around us?

So, my interests are around communicating science to the average person, but not an as expert trying to communicate knowledge, but as a non-expert trying to learn as I go, and share that learning with my children, and learn from them too, and anyone who cares to listen.

How my interest in storytelling cross over into science is going to be intriguing to explore, but I’m also interested in exploring how science and mathematics enhance our relationship with nature.  Being able to wrap this science learning around two curious young children, and in my day job, is honestly, a pretty lovely start to the journey.

One of my big questions is, as a parent, who needs to reconnect with science and maths fundamentals, is, whether there are there resources around that can help you quickly refresh physics and chemistry concepts, while you do fun experiments? And that’s just the start…


Geek parenting fail

Geometry set

So, the other day I bought little Miss 4.5 year old a gift that I thought was ‘cool’. It was a $3 coloured plastic geometry set.

What? She’s been into drawing with rulers and stencils lately so I thought she would love it. Admittedly, building up the drama of receiving a geometry set with “I’ve got a surprise for you” didn’t get me off to a good start.

And there it was. The first look of genuine, wavering bottom-lipped dissapointment that I’ve been responsible for. She looked at the geometry set and then me as if I was the meanest mother on earth.

So, how did I respond?

By explaining all the cool things that you could do with a geometry set…

1. Draw cool things with straight line, like you do with a ruler. Counter argument received: “But I only like long rulers for doing that
2. Having a geometry set makes you like a big school kid. Counter argument received: “But I don’t want to be a school kid until I’m 5.”

But…the sobbing was escalating. I was becoming desperate to put some kind of positive angle on the situation (angle, geometry, get it??)

And then, I found it!  The reason for a 4.5 year old to have geometry set, that IMMEDIATELY stopped the tears, elicited smiles and even a ‘thanks mum, this is cool”….

(mathematicians….please look away in disgust now…)


Funky geometric glasses

Transit of Venus

I had an errand in the city today which provided the perfect opportunity to hang out at the Astronomical Society of South Australia’s public viewing for the Transit of Venus.

4.5 year old seemed to be slightly disappointed with the actual view through her solar glasses (it’s hard to match reality with imagination) but after a few drawings and another explanation over hot chocolate afterwards she got belatedly excited.

I think she’ll love this memory ehen she is older. I remember being a bit disappointed by the smudgy Halley’s Comet when I was a child, but now it’s a cherished moment of wonder.



Free-range and wild dust bunnies

There has been a population explosion of dust bunnies here! The research I have conducted online suggest that ours are special – they free-range and effectively live wild.

I was going to add a fascinating discourse about my recent observations and research on these dust bunnies (including a photograph of a wild one!) but I’ve noticed that all the links to images in my posts on this site from 2006 are still pointing to my old URL and will need uploading again … a job for the next few days.

Sorry, looks like any of you interested in dust bunnies will just have to wait … and if you don’t know what dust bunnies are … perhaps you will intrigued enough to return here one day to find out …

Supersize me

Everyone knows that strange phenomena of selecting a Christmas tree. You pick one, get it back to your house, wrestle it inside and realise it is a little bigger than you first thought.

As we have countless hundreds of trees, Richard tends to harvest a branch from a pine tree to be our much loved Christmas tree.. This year we picked what we considered to be a small branch from a 15 metre pine tree. It took us about 5 minutes to select and collect our branch from ‘Winter Gully’. Two seconds with a saw, onto our car roof and a few minutes later, into the house. The thing is, that it looked smaller than last years … until we got it into the house …

the large tree

No, that’s not an optical illusion, it’s approximately 5 metres tall.
I wonder if you get giant presents from Santa with a giant christmas tree ….

Orange moon

Yesterday morning as I was letting the dogs outside at 6am, I saw the spookiest moonset. On the horizon over the sea, (in the direction of the usual summer sunset) in total darkness was a vividly orange moon peeking out of darkcloud. It was like a nightime sun or an eclipse.

Then tonight, the full moon rose in the east over the hills, large and quiet, just rising into the pastel sky in it’s friendly way like it does. There was definitely a promise of spring in it’s colour.

Seeing it made me think of the Harvest Moon but I read on the Horizon site that a Harvest Moon is later in September.

I love the old names for the moon, but I still struggle with the southern hemisphere dilemma. I found following the seasons was natural in the UK – you could almost feel each solstice- Yule is so Decemberish that even the most disconnected person can remember that, but here I seem to be having trouble staying in touch.

Anyway, all this has made me realise that I need to refresh my southern hemisphere knowledge and perspective . Handily this week on Sunday, I planted a load of sunflower seeds just before the full moon which according to permaculture and biodynamic theory is pretty good timing for seed planting.

I can’t find out much about the correlation of old moon names with the southern hemisphere and I’m not sure if our winter moon at this time should be the February equivalent (Old Moon)…or whether it really is the grain moon, but if we do swap, here are the Southern equivalents:

Old names for the monthly moon
January: Old Moon, or Moon After Yule (july)
February: Snow Moon, Hunger Moon, or Wolf Moon (august)
March: Sap Moon, Crow Moon or Lenten Moon (september)
April: Grass Moon, or Egg Moon (october)
May: Planting Moon, or Milk Moon (november)
June: Rose Moon, Flower Moon, or Strawberry Moon (december)
July: Thunder Moon, or Hay Moon (january)
August: Green Corn Moon, or Grain Moon (february)
September: Fruit Moon, or Harvest Moon (march)
October: Harvest Moon, or Hunter’s Moon (april)
November: Hunter’s Moon, Frosty Moon, or Beaver Moon (may)
December: Moon Before Yule, or Long Night Moon (june)

A bit of the moon

It was such a still-calm night tonight that I wrestled the telescope into the yard to point it up at the nearly full moon (full tomorrow night). After exploring its pock-marked plains for a while, I decided to try a bit of astro-photography for a laugh with my cheap digital camera ($150 point-and-shoot) by putting it up to the eye piece.

I was actually really surprised by the results…much more detail than I imagined would be possible. There be craters on my photo!

the moon

A bit of the moon

It was such a still-calm night tonight that I wrestled the telescope into the yard to point it up at the nearly full moon (full tomorrow night). After exploring its pock-marked plains for a while, I decided to try a bit of astro-photography for a laugh with my cheap digital camera ($150 point-and-shoot) by putting it up to the eye piece.

I was actually really surprised by the results…much more detail than I imagined would be possible. There be craters on my photo!

the moon through my telescope