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Archive for the ‘December 2012’ Category

Day 141. 2012 in review

In December 2012 on December 31, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Dear Reader,

Forgive my love of statistics, but the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for Science for Life.365 and I felt an urge to share.

As an example, in total this blog got about 5,000 views in 2012.

Click here to see the complete report.

Sending my best wishes for a very sciencey 2013.

Sarah

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Day 140. Summer listening – Capturing Venus

In December 2012 on December 30, 2012 at 3:22 pm

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Preparing for an extended beach holiday, I tuned in to Radio National today to discover a replay of the brilliant Hindsight program Capturing Venus.

Created and first broadcast in the lead up to 2012’s Transit of Venus, the piece captures the history, sociology and science behind this rare astronomical event.  I was utterly enthralled – so much so that I turned on 3 radios throughout the house so I didn’t miss a minute as I wandered from room to room tidying, sorting and packing.

It’s available as a podcast – perfect for summer listening.

Day 139. Sunfish

In December 2012 on December 29, 2012 at 3:59 pm

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Imagine smacking into more than 1000 kgs of buoyant flesh whilst cruising along the top of the ocean at the equivalent of 30-50kms per hour.

That’s exactly what happened to Adelaide’s Sydney to Hobart Yacht race entrant Secret Mens Businesshitting a sunfish whilst sailing at pace down the coast of Australia on Thursday. The boat lost a third of its rudder as a result of the impact; luckily, no crew members were injured. The fate of the sunfish remains unknown but I suspect the worst.

Sunfish are enormous – up to 4 metres long – disc-like fish found in temperate waters around the world, including along the eastern and southern coast of Australia. They are often observed at the waters’ surface, with their prominent dorsal fin projecting into the air like that of a shark.

The Australian Museum has put together more information on the sunfish, also known as the Mola mola, including links to a specimen dissection.

[image thanks to JoshBerglund19 on flickr]

Day 138. What are you afraid of?

In December 2012 on December 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm

shark

Canadian writer Stephanie Smith wrote on SciLogs this week:

For me, there are three extremely good reasons never to go to Australia – huge furry-bodied poisonous spiders, venomous lightning fast snakes and sharks with great mouthfuls of serrated teeth. After reading a recent article, I am now happy to add a fourth to the list: the Australian box jellyfish.

Of course I live in Australia. There are plenty of poisonous red-back spiders living in nooks and crannies around the exterior of my house, and holidaying in rural South Australia we encounter the odd brown snake and even shark from afar (this huge Great White shown above was photographed by my husband whilst fishing off Eyre Peninsula). Box jellies live in the Northern waters, so don’t form a regular concern for me down here on the Antarctic side of the country.

It does amuse – and even bemuse – me somewhat that dangerous animals could be perceived such a threat that a person would stay away from a country. And yet every year millions travel to the United States where guns are legal and accessible to just about everyone.

I know Stephanie’s ‘dangerous animal’ angle was probably only used to create a good story, but let’s give the poor animals a break, and focus on the real bad guys – people who promote guns as an ordinary part of life.

Gary Stix at Scientific American wrote this piece in the wake of the recent Newtown massacre, citing the Australian example of reformed gun laws following a mass shooting at Port Arthur, Tasmania in 1996. Prime Minister at the time John Howard responded swiftly to the terrible event, introducing new legislation which

“banned semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns, which were purchased back from civilian owners, removing more than 600,000 guns from Australia’s adult population of 12 million. There were 13 gun massacres (the killing of four or more) in the 18 years before the 1996 National Firearms Agreement and none afterward. The law also reduced substantially homicides and suicides using  firearms.”

This is the part of Australian life I’d like more North Americans to know about. Not the scary animals.

Day 137. Selfish kindness

In December 2012 on December 27, 2012 at 4:54 pm

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Abundant displays of kindness and goodwill on Christmas Day have raised the sense of happiness and acceptance in my household, particularly amongst the children (aged 9, 7 and 3).

A US study released today offers scientific support for this phenomenon: the data shows that ‘tweens’ aged 9-11 who performed kind acts experienced greater happiness and enhanced peer acceptance than other kids.  Examples of kind acts included “gave my mom a hug when she was stressed by her job,” “gave someone some of my lunch,” and “vacuumed the floor”; kids in the control group kept a record of places they visited instead of the acts they performed.

The study suggests that if we offer children more opportunities to be kind, the impact will be felt not only amongst the broader community but also result in better mental health in the protagonists.

Let’s all be kinder.

[image thanks to PEEJOE on flickr]

Day 136. Cricket

In December 2012 on December 26, 2012 at 7:27 pm

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It’s the day after Christmas: Boxing Day. In our house, that means cricket. One grown man and two boys are obsessed.

With endless radio and television analysis of how balls swing and seam and bounce and deceive the batter, I began searching for some cold hard evidence. A website The Science Behind the Art of Cricket offered a physics-based explanation of how cricket balls move. Terms like ‘turbulent flow’, ‘side force’, ‘separation layer’ and ‘laminar flow’ are used in abandon.

Apparently, deliveries which achieve swing rely on,

“maintaining laminar boundary layer air-flow on the shiny side whilst creating turbulent flow on the seam side.”

Reverse swing on the other hand,

“is achieved when the ball is bowled very fast. In this case the air flow will become turbulent on both sides before it reaches the seam.”

If someone could just tell me how rubbing cricket balls in the gonadal region adds value, I’ll be satisfied.

[image from here]

Day 135. Twelve around the table

In December 2012 on December 25, 2012 at 7:34 pm

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On the 12th day of Christmas, ScienceforLife gave to me:

*Today I shared a long Christmas lunch with twelve wonderful people. The best science present of the day? Aunty Anna wins again, sending from Paris this magnificent body parts puzzle to my 7-year old daughter. Most thoughtful gift goes to my husband, who created a book from my first 100 Science for Life.365 entries and presented one to me and each of my other adult family members. Merry Christmas everyone.

Day 134. Eleven egg-whites foaming

In December 2012 on December 24, 2012 at 8:40 pm


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On the 11th day of Christmas, ScienceforLife gave to me:

*Today I baked my first meringue, and hallelujah what a success! The whites from eleven eggs were whisked briskly in a metal bowl to introduce air bubbles; I was looking for the ‘soft peak’ stage, in which amongst the egg proteins the somewhat ‘coarse bubbles are still lubricated by plenty of liquid’. The addition of caster sugar made the ‘fragile egg-white foam into a stable, glossy meringue’ (quotes here are from Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and lore of the Kitchen). I spread my concoction into a large rectangular shape, and then baked in an oven for a brief 20 minute spell. This rendered the outside crisp and slightly brown, and the interior still relatively moist. Tomorrow I shall line it with passionfruit, paw-paw, rasperries and bananas along with sweetened cream, creme fraiche and mascapone, then roll and slice to create individual serves of summery Christmassy crunchy proteiny explosions of sweetness. Science is life!

[image thanks to Annie Mole on flickr]

Day 133. Ten legs a-squidding

In December 2012 on December 23, 2012 at 10:45 am

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On the 10th day of Christmas, ScienceforLife gave to me:

*At the risk of losing friends, I admit I am somewhat obsessed with those 10-legged sea creatures known as squid. The image shown here is of one of my most treasured possessions, a small ceramic bowl featuring a hovering blue/green squid surrounded by chromatophore-like spots.  The bowl was a gift from a friend. Highlights in my twitter and Facebook feeds over 2012 revealed vampire squid, changing colours in squid skin (set to music), the piglet squid, reminiscent of Gonzo from the Muppets and the tantalising news that in 2013 Discovery will broadcast footage of a live giant squid. My family and I are hoping to catch and eat a few Yorke Peninsula squid over the coming weeks.

Day 132. Nine inspiring ladies

In December 2012 on December 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm

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On the 9th day of Christmas, ScienceforLife gave to me:

*Many science-trained Australian women inspired me during 2012. If forced to list 9 of them, I’d start with my Mum (Masters in Ag Science, MBBS and PhD in medical education), then add my botanist aunt Carol, neighbour and nutritionist Jane, friend and previous employer Kristin Alford, Tedx presenter/PhD candidate/podcaster/writer and friend Upulie Divisekera, two outstanding breeders of babysitters in Caroline McMillen and Liz Farmer, and everything-she-touches-is-gold Professor Tanya Monro. As my 9th pick I nominate nutrition scientist Katrine Baghurst, whose funeral I attended today.

[image thanks to puuikibeach on flickr]