Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cell Respiration Teaching Ideas

Animation of cell respiration: http://goanimate.com/videos/0baaPbDhWids?utm_source=linkshare.
Packs A LOT of info into a short 90 seconds. I love the idea of creating a cool video with interesting voice-overs.

Very cute student-made animation of cell respiration.
Great idea for a class project!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Let's talk about genes, and I don't mean trousers.

I came upon this video and thought I would share. It was a competition for a scholarship as part of a program in the U.K. to excite and educate students about genetics. Not only is the winning video, but it's received several awards. This video was written and performed by Jon Chase


Let’s talk about genes and I don’t mean trousers,
A countless amount is in life all around us,
But how to account for life’s behaviours and structures,
Is a question that’s received many answers in cultures,
The developments of life has long caused confusion,
Then Charles Darwin wrote a book that offered a solution,
On The Origin of Species was his way of introducing,
How life had diverged by surviving evolution,
Now every living thing had to come from a parent,
And each generation can become a bit different,
Gregor Mendel was the first to show how this happened,
By Cross breeding pea s and pondering the patterns,
By 1953 Watson and Crick was on the case,
They were the dynamic duo that deciphered DNA...
...Must be in double helix like a spiral staircase,
With Gs married to Cs and Ts paired to As.
“So Let’s talk about genes and I don’t mean trousers,”
As a key feature of characteristics,
They can help identify kids and relatives,
So we need to be reflecting on the benefits,
“Let’s talk about genes and I don’t mean trousers,”
To be informed when debating the ethics,
Just remember its okay to be a sceptic,
But work with the facts and be fair as a critic,

We all have traits passed on through inheritance,
Traits that are built from genetic instructions,
Some are recessive but others are dominant,
When it comes to species, the genes are the GovErNmEnt,
From a single cell your identity can be known,
The information is stored in the chromosomes,
With 23 pairs in nearly every cell you own
They’re bundled in the nucleus; that’s their home!
Now chromosome pairs have particular schemes,
And sequenced along them are different genes,
With the rest of the cell, they form a team,
That turns nucleic acids into proteins,
The proteins are vital to life everywhere,
From the blood in the veins, to our growth and repair,
But if genes mutate or become impaired,
They can make proteins that harm our welfare.
“Let’s talk about genes and I don’t mean trousers,”
As a key feature of characteristics,
They can help identify kids and relatives,
So we need to be reflecting on the benefits,
“Let’s talk about genes and I don’t mean trousers,”
To be informed when debating the ethics,
Just remember its okay to be a sceptic,
But work with the facts and be fair as a critic,
Over the years many peered through microscopes
Learning how life gets built through genetic codes,
but a gene doesn’t read like a horoscope,
it won’t tell your future but it can bring a little hope,
Because some genes are linked to diseases,
As random mutations cause flaws in sequences,
Replacing those faults is the hope for gene therapies,
Like patching up jeans or ironing out the creases
To decrease the chance of illness is pleasing,
Like hay fever tablets to help avoid sneezing,
But for genetic disorders there’s a way of revealing,
Potential risks in our lifetime; it’s called genetic screening,
I hear some of you screaming out DESIGNER BABIES!,
And we are cheating nature by resorting to technology?
To use Genetic engineering we must do it ethically
By making sure we know the risks of using such a remedy
“So Let’s talk about genes and I don’t mean trousers,”
As a key feature of characteristics,
They can help identify kids and relatives,
So we need to be reflecting on the benefits,
“Let’s talk about genes and I don’t mean trousers,”
To be informed when debating the ethics,
Just remember its okay to be a sceptic,
But work with the facts and be fair as a critic,

For more winning science rap videos, check out:

White Blood Cell Chasing Bacteria

Right off YouTube. A fantastic, entertaining clip of a white blood cell chasing and engulfing a bacterium. Students enjoy watching a live cell move close up. You can use it to teach the immune system, or just introduce students to the cell. I used it today in class to show students how big eukaryotes (white blood cell) is compared to prokaryotes (bacteria). Also, I talked about cell specialization (blood cells--"ghosts" vs. white blood cells). They loved it!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Evidence of CO2 Snow on Mars!

Discovery News-"Flurry of Evidence for CO2 Snow"
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDAAn instrument from NASA (the Mars Climate Sounder)  captured CO2 (dry ice) snowflakes falling from Mars' sky, enough to form large piles of snow. Scientists have known that frozen CO2 existed on Mars. Afterall, the temperature on Mars at the pole (where this image was capture), is -139 degrees Farenheit. It's the first time CO2 snow has ever been documented. The snow is very tiny, about the size of a cell. You'd need a microscope to see a flake! The snow accumulates as it falls; scientists predict it would look like a dense fog.

FYI: Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is the air we exhale with every breath. It was also used by Michael Jackson in Thriller. Using dry ice is a cheap way to make fog since it sublimates (turns immediately from a solid to a gas--it's a cool kind of phase change 'cause it skips a step in the middle). It sublimates at -109 degrees Farenheit (way colder than room temperature, which is about 65-70 degrees Farenheit). CO2 also explains why Coke explodes when you drop a Mentos into it. Coke is packed with dissolved CO2 at the factory. The Mentos has a ton of tiny pits, covering its surface. This gives the CO2 more surface area cling to, allowing the gas to easily escape and, thus, erupt, as a gas. Check out Mythbusters, Mentos and Coke episode.

More Links:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Acids and Stomach Ulcers

Intro to Acids and Bases:
Our stomachs have one of the lowest pHs on earth. Ranging about a pH of 1, the high concentrations of HCl in our stomach helps us digest food and fight disease. Sometimes, our stomachs produce too much acid, leading to heartburn and sometimes ulcers. The only reason our stomach acid doesn't eat a hole through our stomachs is because of our protective mucosal lining of the gut. If that gets worn down, the acid eats a hole in our guts, causing an ulcer.

Alka seltzer neutralizes our stomach acid.
Alka seltzer is made o: sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, and anhydrous citric acid.
citric acid+sodium bicarbonatewater+carbon dioxide+sodium citrate


Note--most people who suffer from ulcers are infected with a bacteria, H. pylori, which is very difficult to treat.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cool Facts about Atoms

If an atom were the size of a football stadium, the nucleus would be a pea on the 50 yard line. That pea would weigh as much as the entire stadium! Most of the atom is empty space with electrons zipping around.

Build a model of an atom with simple materials.
Be creative. Use items at home, such as candy, food, pipecleaners, and other art supplies.
Include the protons and neutrons in the nucleus.
Electrons orbit around the nucleus.

Water and Life on Mars?

Ever since evidence of water turned up on Mars, scientists have wondered if life once existed there. The new rover Curiosity may finally be able to come up with some answers. But why get so excited about water? Turns out, water is a very unique molecule with properties that make Earth a hospitable place for life.

"Water is key because almost everywhere we find water on Earth, we find life. If Mars once had liquid water, or still does today, it's compelling to ask whether any microscopic life forms could have developed on its surface."

Water is not evidence of life but it's such a neat little molecule that it means that if water was around, it may have helped make life possible. This is because of some of water's unique properties. For instance, water remains liquid at relatively low temperatures and relatively high ones, a very unusual characteristic for such a large molecule. In addition, water decreases in density when it freezes. Most things become more dense. However, ice floats. Imagine how different our Earth would be if it weren't for that one little fact. For one thing, if Earth cooled a little, water on the surface would freeze and sink, pushing the cold water to the surface, where it would also freeze and sink, until all the water on Earth was frozen. Water is the only substance found naturally in three forms: ice, liquid, and gas (vapor).

Our Earth is made of 70% water and our bodies are composed of 75% water. 75%! Water is essential in order for all the trillions of cells in our bodies to stay hydrated, excrete wastes, and absorb nutrients. It's essential for chemical reactions, oxygen delivery to the cells in our bodies, and basically every process needed for our bodies to run. That's why it's important to stay properly hydrated. Drink lots of water (about 8 glasses a day)! Did you know? It takes a human up to a few weeks to starve to death but only a few days to die of dehydration. In addition, all life on Earth is dependent upon a clean, reliable supply of water to survive. This is why water conservation efforts are so important.

In 2008, NASA's Phoenix Mars lander landed in the Martian arctic region and uncovered evidence for water ice.
In 2008, NASA's Phoenix Mars lander landed in the Martian arctic region and uncovered evidence for water ice.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Ariz.

Water on Mars


Water and the Body
Why is Water Important

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fun Science Facts:

Write these on your chalkboard as a daily fun fact!
  • Caterpillars are very nutritious, high in riboflavin and iron (Wired, August, 2012).
  • Turritopsis nutricula is a genus of jelly fish which is also regarded as the immortal jelly fish. This is because these species have the ability to transform back into juvenile form once they mate after becoming sexually mature.
  • The planet Saturn has a density that is lower than that of water. So, if you could throw it in the ocean, it would actually float!
  • Every year, the average person is known to have 430 bugs as dinner, lunch or breakfast.
  • Nothing can be quieter than space. Even if a star explodes, you would hear nothing. No air molecules, no vibration thus, no sound.
  • Some chameleons have tongues which are longer than their body.
  • In a school of clownfish, if the female dies, then the dominant male would become a female to continue with the reproduction process.
  • We all know that light takes 8 minutes to reach the earth. But the same light took a whopping time of 30,000 years to make it to the sun's surface from its core!
  • Every year, falling coconuts are known to kill more people than sharks.
  • On an average, man is able to produce enough spit to fill a swimming pool. Imagine the splash the pool will create!
  • Buy an electric eel found in South America and reduce your electricity bills. This creature can produce 600 volts; voltage enough to paralyze a horse.
  • Our worry for the ever diminishing oil and natural gas reserves on Earth could have been dealt with if only man could go to Titan, one of Saturn's moon. This place has 100 times more of such resources.
  • How much does the average man sleep in his entire lifetime? The armadillo spends about 80% of its life in sleeping.
  • Some say that a daily output of poop is enough to power a 60-watt bulb for more than nine hours. Nothing goes wasted!
  • Would you be able to stand on an ice-cream barefooted and say how sweet it is. The butterfly can. The insect has sense organs in its hind feet, with the aid of which it can determine if something is edible or not.
  • It is known that the human body has 206 bones. But as babies we are born with about 300 of them. As we age, some of the bones fuse.
  • The sound produced by the blue whale counts up to about 188 decibels. No wonder, it can be heard even from 853 km.
  • 67,000 miles per hour is the speed at which the Earth is traveling across the sun. And guess what? We are also moving at this speed.
  • If you want to grow taller, say by 2 inches, have a trip into the space. As there is no gravity, the spine becomes free to elongate up to 2 inches. The same happens when we are sleeping, except that the spine stretches up to 1 or 2 cm.
  • If you bring two similar metals (having clean and flat surfaces) together, they would fuse naturally; only when the process is performed in vacuum. This is known as cold welding.
  • Always be nice to your wife when she is expecting. Otherwise, you may become a male sea-horse in you next life. Why so? The male seahorse is the one who gets pregnant.
  • In ancient times, leeches were used as weather forecasters. When they were kept in water jars, they seemed to stay at the bottom during calm weather. It so happened that, when the storms approach, these creatures rose quickly to the top, and descend as the storms passed.
  • More than our own cells in our body, there are microbial cells.
  • Liver is the only organ which has the capability of regenerating itself.
  • The planet Mercury has a day that is twice as long as its year.
  • The Pyramid of Giza is the result of an accumulation of 2.5 million blocks.
  • Passing flatus constantly for 6 years and 9 months would produce an amount of energy that would be enough to create that of an atomic bomb.
  • The stomach would have digested itself if it lacked the lining of mucus.
  • Pumice is the only known rock which can float on water.
  • 300 beats per minute is the pulse of a hedgehog. I wonder what's the heartbeat rate when the hedgehog meets his girlfriend!

Links on Cool Science Facts:

Monday, July 23, 2012


I have created this blog as a venue to exchange ideas about how to teach life sciences to high school students. I am very passionate about the subject of biology and have previous experience in biotech and biomedicine. I'm looking forward to teaching students about how exciting and rewarding this field can be. Please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for visiting!