Posts Tagged ‘christmas’

Top 10 + 1 #science365 Christmas gifts

In December 2014 on December 22, 2014 at 12:37 pm


Kirsti: I am not really into buying lots of crap….errr, I mean material things.*

In lieu of purchasing further material possessions this Christmas, I suggest you consider giving experiences, education or donations to science projects. Experiences can really grab our attention and help us form emotional connections with concepts and ideas. It’s our emotional experience that will keep us coming back to science, and that’s surely a good thing.

I’m also a big fan of this rule for buying Christmas presents: something to read, something to do, something to share and something to wear. It is akin to rules across the internet for giving gifts to children, like this one at SimpleKids.

So, to the details! Here are Science for Life.365’s top 10 + 1 science gift ideas for 2014!

  1. A visit to a science centre

Australia has a science centre in nearly every major city, except Darwin. Plus there are heaps of great smaller regional centres, like the Discovery Science & Technology Centre in Bendigo, the Science Centre & Planetarium in Wollongong and the small Zoology Museum at the University of New England in Armidale (where I’m based).

Australia’s national science centre, Questacon, has holiday workshops and some fabulous shows and summer exhibitions on. Get there if you can. In Melbourne head for ScienceWorks or the Melbourne Museum; in Sydney the Powerhouse and Australian Museums; in Brisbane the Queensland Museum; in Adelaide the South Australian Museum (Sarah might even meet you there!); and in Perth, get to Scitech.

Giving a little ticket for a day’s outing to one of these mind expanding venues would be a welcome envelope under my tree.

  1. Donation to a crowd funded science project

Crowd funding sites Pozible, KickStarter and IndiGoGo are securing much needed money from interested and passionate citizens for some phenomenal projects, including using 3D printing in educational settings, getting into remote PNG mountains to discover rare and endangered mammals, and a ridiculously comprehensive board game on ANTS!

If you want to see science succeed in the face of budget cuts, changing national priorities and intense competition in academia, contribute to a project yourself. There are many and varied rewards to be gained, including the satisfaction that you’ve helped a project that might not otherwise have been undertaken get off the ground.

Power to the citizens….

  1. Subscription to COSMOS, New Scientist or Australasian Science

Magazines represent lots of things for me – time to myself, acknowledgement of my own interests, and my desire to keep up to date with what’s going on in a particular sphere; in this case, science.

Whether it is a digital or paper subscription, this is a gift that will keep on giving for as long as the subscription lasts. You can receive COSMOS magazine bi-monthly, New Scientist or Australasian Science once a month or the magazine of your choice whenever you want it.

Remember to keep them in an easily accessible location. Hell, keep whole sets if you own them. Remember when National Geographic magazines used to be a centre piece of every 1980’s bookshelf? Hours of entertainment! You never know when a school project will require a trip to the magazine rack.

  1. DNA artwork

Check this out! You can have your very own DNA on your wall at home. The DNA and fingerprint portraits are really snazzy, and teamed with the right colour scheme, oh darling…I’m almost feeling like an interior decorator!

  1. Laboratory beaker mug

Mugs are a classic gift. Let’s face it, mugs are not only good for Christmas, but birthdays, teacher presents, Valentine’s Day, Mum and Dad days, leaving present….. you get the picture. They hold coffee, tea, water, juice, flowers, nuts, soup, pens & pencils, chemistry experiments….

THIS glass mug that doubles as a beaker….. or, a beaker that doubles as a mug….. is just perfect for your science loving, tea drinking coffee connoisseur. Just keep it on your desk rather than in the tearoom cupboard. It may go missing.

  1. Some more DNA to play with

Anyone with kids will be familiar with K’NEX – modular building shapes that create anything from fantasy creatures to accurate DNA replication models. There’s a huge online international community dedicated to K’NEX building, and includes competitions and ideas for new structures all the time. Kid engineering heaven.

So why not invest in a DNA replication and transcription set? As well as being used as a teaching tool, the pieces can be connected and contorted with your imagination to make quite literally anything.

  1. BOOKS!

George Aranda of Science Book A Day has got literally that – a science book a day for over a year, and he’s only just getting going! This is a blog that — if you’re into science, reading, and anything related to reading science — you MUST follow.

There are interviews with authors, reviews and ratings of science books from across disciplines, and for a real diversity of interests and age groups. From the blog, all you really need to do is log onto your favourite online bookstore and place your order. I know it’s possibly a bit late for this Christmas, but I guarantee you will be bookmarking this site for future reference.

  1. Jewellery

Our world is made up of molecules, so why not bling yourself up with your favourite mood enhancer?! At Made With Molecules, you can choose between caffeine, serotonin, vanillin, water, dopamine, ethanol, theobromine and many many more.

Yale-educated scientist-turned-artist Raven Hanna is inspired by nature, and donates at least 1% of her profits to science education and environmental non-profit organisations.

  1. Ant iPhone cover…

OK, so this one is a bit self-indulgent. Ants are everywhere, have adapted to a huge diversity of environments, are important ecosystem engineers and will no doubt inherit the Earth. Remind people of this as often as possible with this awesome RedBubble iPhone case!

  1. A day of citizen science

Citizen science is the new black. You can do science. ANYONE can do science. Families can do science. Together! So perhaps one of the experiences you earmark for the summer holidays is a citizen science project together, or maybe a whole swag of projects. It is fulfilling to have contributed data to a real scientific study. Furthermore, in my experience, participating in these sorts of activities empowers kids and adults alike to ask questions about their immediate environments, homes and communities, and sometimes endeavour to answer them.

In Australia there are some fabulous online biodiversity libraries that you can contribute to. RedMap allows you to upload photos and observations of marine creatures you come across, and the Atlas of Living Australia and BowerBird sites do the same thing for land and water based creatures and plants. You might also want to discover what ants are in your backyard with the Australian School of Ants.

You can choose from a plethora of US-based projects like web-based investigations at Zooniverse, including transcribing old field naturalist notes and searching for planets to finding or more about the wild life of your own bodies at YourWildLife. Swab your belly button for bacteria or read stories about the invisible world of our homes, bodies and whole lives.

  1. A piece of Mars

Yes, you can own a small piece of Mars. ThinkGeek, an online store for themed gifts, have done it again with authentic 2mg particles from space. Unearthed from Northwest Africa, these Mars rocks from Martian shergottite NWA 4930, 4880, 4468, 998, Tissint and others come in their own protective shell and with their history.

So if you don’t get a chance to live on terraformed Mars in your lifetime, be happy with the knowledge that Mars came to you.

*But I will admit to coveting a beaker coffee mug, serotonin necklace, plenty of those books and that iPhone cover……

[photo thanks to Slimmer_Jimmer on flickr]


Day 137. Selfish kindness

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


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 135. Twelve around the table

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

body parts puzzle

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


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


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


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]

Day 131. Perme-8 from milking

In December 2012 on December 21, 2012 at 9:28 am


On the 8th day of Christmas, ScienceforLife gave to me:

*Australian consumers were up in arms during 2012 when certain dairy distributors suggested that permeate-free milk was what we should all be drinking. Please, for the sake of your health, avoid permeate! The problem was, nobody seemed to know what permeate was; even scientists were confused. Luckily @heatherbray6 came to our rescue with this blog post. The bottom line? Permeate is basically low-protein, low-fat milk produced by passing whole milk through a membrane. It’s not a ‘chemical’ and it’s not artificial, and it’s added to whole milk before packaging to allow standardisation of nutritional content. No doubt I’ll be drinking a little permeate in my egg-nog this Christmas.

[image thanks to circasassy on flickr]

Day 130. Seven terrible minutes

In December 2012 on December 20, 2012 at 10:56 am


On the 7th day of Christmas, ScienceforLife gave to me:

*When NASA’s Curiosity rover approached Mars on August 6 2012, it had to enter the Martian atmosphere, slow down, pass through it and then land safely. The entire process was referred to as The Seven Minutes of Terror: the entry-descent-landing procedure combined with the time taken for data to travel from Mars to Earth meant that when NASA staff first received information that Curiosity had reached the outer edge of Mars’ atmosphere, in reality it had already arrived ‘dead or alive’ on the surface of the red planet. Seven minutes later they received confirmation the landing too had been a success. Curiosity has since collected an incredible album of colour photographs and performed soil and chemical analysis on Mars.

[image thanks to jasonb42882 on flickr]

Day 129. Six tweeps a-tweeting

In December 2012 on December 19, 2012 at 10:49 am

On the 6th day of Christmas, ScienceforLife gave to me:

*I’ve written here and there about how twitter can play a role in the professional lives of scientists and communicators. Here’s a list of six tweeting science-types who’ve interested and/or influenced me during 2012 (not an exhaustive list, and order not important):

  1. Rebecca Skloot
    Sample tweet: Science writing: how do you make complex issues accessible and readable? [link to article] #sciwri
  2. Ashley Ng
    Sample tweet: Quite amazing @TIME: PHOTOS: Tiny beauties – Visions from under the microscope [link to article]
  3. Kevin Zelnio
    Sample tweet: Giant Squid on Video?! [link to article] #DeepSN via @deepseanews
  4. Bora Zivkovic
    Sample tweet: How does Wikipedia deal with a mass shooting? A frenzied start gives way to a few core editors [link to article]
  5. Samantha Thomas
    Sample tweet: Hi everyone looking for #instagram alternatives. Logged into @EyeEm – really good. Very similar to Instagram.
  6. Cameron Webb
    Sample tweet: Hearing is a vastly underrated sense: The Science and Art of Listening [link to article]

[photo thanks to katerha on flickr]

Day 128. Five bulk gold rings

In December 2012 on December 18, 2012 at 2:27 pm

bulk gold

On the 5th day of Christmas, ScienceforLife gave to me:

*My 5 most-worn rings – sentimental favourites, being gifts from my husband and parents – are made from ‘bulk gold’. As explained by TechNYou, bulk gold is familiar to us all as a relatively soft, stable metal which conducts heat and electricity well. The colour of bulk gold is…, a result of the wavelength of light scattered from the surface of the mass of gold atoms held together by metallic bonds.

Gold can also exist stably at the nanoscale, many thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair. Instead of metallic bonds creating a mass structure, nanogold consists of small aggregations of gold atoms.  In solution, light scattered from nanogold can appear red, green, blue or even black depending on the size of the gold particles and this distances between the particles. Stained glass windows made during mediaeval times contained nanogold at varying concentrations to produce different colours.