In 2018, Canadian mum of two Donna Strickland became only the third woman ever to win the Nobel Prize for Physics, following in the footsteps of fellow science mums Marie Curie (1903) and Maria Goeppert Mayer (1963). Donna shared her prize with her collaborator Gerard Mourou, for their work on high intensity laser pulses, and with Arthur Ashkin for his work on 'optical tweezers'. In her acceptance speech, Donna quoted the Cyndi Lauper song 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun', saying 'I don't want to wait 'til the working day is done. I want to have fun at work.' You can read more [...]
Maria Merian was born in Germany in 1647. She began collecting caterpillars when she was 13, and later painted them in various stages of their life cycle. Her patient observations and detailed paintings provided the first evidence of the process of metamorphosis (when a caterpillar enters a cocoon and emerges as a butterfly). Maria was the mother of two small children, and bore all of the responsibility of caring for them and managing her home, whilst remaining dedicated to her work. She also taught painting as a means of supporting herself and her children. You can read a longer article about Maria Merian here .
The town of Winton in outback Queensland is one of Australia's most important locations for dinosaur fossils. Last week it was revealed that a team of volunteers and paleontologists had worked together on nearby Karoola station to excavate a very rare find: a set of footprints belonging to three different types of dinosaur, including the first set of sauropod footprints found in Australia. They removed the prints just before the arrival of destructive monsoonal rains and took them to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum in Winton, where they will go on display. In this video, paleontologist Dr Stephen Poropat discusses how the [...]
In late 2013, palaeontologists in Patagonia, Argentina made an exciting discovery. Now, more than six years of careful work later, their discovery has finally been unveiled to the world: Bajadasaurus pronuspinax, a new species of dinosaur that lived approximately 140 million years ago. From the fossil evidence uncovered, it is believed that Bajadasaurus was a sauropod (the family of dinosaurs with long necks and long tails) with a very distinctive feature: A row of fearsome-looking spikes running down its spine that probably served as a deterrent to predators. This image is an artists impression of what Bajadasaurus may have looked like. [...]
All magnetic objects contain a metal, but not all metals are magnetic. The most common magnetic metals are iron, nickel and cobalt. Neodymium is a rare earth metal that is combined with iron and another element called boron to make very powerful magnets that are capable of lifting a thousand times their own weight! Magnets have two distinct ends called ‘poles’ (North and South). The north pole of one magnet will attract the south pole of another magnet, but it will repel (push away) the north pole of the other magnet. (This is easily remembered with the phrase ‘opposites attract’.) [...]
What is Photosynthesis? Photosynthesis is a process carried out by all green plants. The plants use carbon dioxide and water to make oxygen and a sugar called glucose. The glucose might be used by the plant for energy, or stored in the form of starch. Glucose and starch are carbohydrates – food sources that animals (like us) need to eat as a source of energy, as, unlike plants, we cannot make our own food. The process of photosynthesis removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releases oxygen into the atmosphere – oxygen that animals (like us) need to breathe. Whilst [...]
Skunk cabbage, Stinking iris, dead horse flower...the names of these plants certainly don’t make you want to buy a bunch of them and inhale deeply. Some plants produce an unpleasant smell, often of rotting flesh, to attract insects that would normally feed on dead animals. Insects landing on the plant then get covered in the plants seeds or pollen, and then spread the seeds or pollen as they move around. The species that earns the title of ‘World’s Stinkiest Plant’ is the Titan Arum, or ‘corpse flower’. This plant is native to Indonesia and can grow to an enormous height [...]
Did you know that some plants eat animals? Carnivorous plants get some of their nutrition by trapping, digesting and absorbing animals, usually insects and other arthropods. There are over 600 species of carnivorous plant, but by far the most famous one is the Venus Fly Trap. The ‘trap’ is made from the end of a leaf and consists of two halves that are hinged in the middle. It looks like a clam shell, albeit one with fearsome spikes around the edges that lock together when the trap closes. An insect walking across the trap will touch tiny surface hairs that [...]
STEM tasks do not necessarily involve lots of expensive equipment. They can be done with simple materials. It is important though, to clearly state what the goal and rules of the challenge is and the criteria that must be fulfilled. It is also important to clearly state the type and amount of materials available to each person or group of people. Here are a few of our favourite, simple STEM challenges. Mad About Science’s list of classic STEM challenges!