The beauty of curiosity

November 11, 2018

Seemingly pointless scientific research can lead to extraordinary discoveries, says physicist Suzie Sheehy. In a talk and tech demo, she shows how many of our modern technologies are tied to centuries-old, curiosity-driven experiments — and makes the case for investing in more to arrive at a deeper understanding of the world.

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Mind spinning illusion

October 14, 2018

I really like optical illusions. And this is no exception …

Mind spinning illusion.jpg

See the image above, and how the shapes seem to move and slither around? It’s not a GIF or other type of animation — it’s 100 per cent static. In reality, your visual cortex is doing all the work.

If the image doesn’t appear to move for you, you’re probably not using a big enough screen (so those on mobile phones, basically). To get the proper effect, try looking at the image out of the corner of your eye, or view it on a PC monitor or TV. Learn more here.

A brief history of Fearing Change

June 9, 2018

“The past is a rich resource on which we can draw in order to make decisions for the future”
Nelson Mandela

technology-adoption-by-households-in-the-united-states.png

The graph above highlights the past century of technology change we have seen and it reminded me of the way that we often respond to change.

Consider this timeline of human thought about historical changes in technology:

  • 370 BC: Writing is making us stupid.
  • 1005: Chess is banned in Egypt as it encourages gambling.
  • 1816: Kaleidoscopes are distracting people from the real world.
  • 1880: Bicycles are the most dangerous thing to life and property ever invented.
  • 1888: Novel reading is a ‘mischief’ like drinking. (1907: Too many novels are being read by young people)
  • 1895: X-rays will prove to be a hoax.
  • 1896: Excessive riding of bicycles induces insanity.
  • 1896: Horseless carriages (cars) lack the intelligence of a horse to guide their path.
  • 1904: Brain doctor warns of elongated brains from driving automobiles: “It remains to be proved how fast the brain is capable of traveling.”
  • 1914: Electric lights are keeping people up and addicted to ‘night life’.
  • 1926: Colour films will never take the place of black and white. What’s the pointof Technicolor.
  • 1929: Talking films with gramophones will never beat silent films with live musicians.
  • 1936: Ban on radios in cars is urged for public safety.
  • 1938: Too much reading is harmful.
  • 1939: Kids are spending too much time listening to the radio and not enough time outside playing.
  • 1948: Comic books are turning children into murderers.
  • 1951: Telephones are killing love letters.
  • 1958: Teenagers are addicted to telephones
  • 1965: The abacus is better than a computer because it’s so much simpler.
  • 1976: Pocket calculators can’t beat the abacus.
  • 1977: Watching television causes brain damage
  • 1977: Cashless Society and electronic funds transfer will never be accepted.
  • 1982: Video games should be banned by law.
  • 1984: The Slide rule is as fast as a calculator and its batteries won’t run out.
  • 1984: Teaching children to program with computers will create a “culture of psychopaths” for a “meagre job market”.
  • 2018: Social media, smart phones, video games, etc., etc., etc.
  • 2030: Virtual Reality (VR) turns people into junkies.

Or in summary

Change In short.png

Finally, if you are still worried about our world today, I think a quick glimpse at some more data visualising the important progress we have made in the last two centuries is a good reminder that, really, everything is going just fine …

Two centuries of change.jpeg

(If you are interested, there are many, many more terrific graphs from Our World in Data.)

Bombardier beetle vs Toad

February 8, 2018

In the tradition of ‘Killer Whale vs Seal‘, ‘Lion vs Buffalo vs Crocodile‘, ‘Shark vs Octopus‘, ’Leopard vs Porcupine‘, ‘Hornets vs Honey bees‘, ’Salmon vs Grizzly Bear‘, ‘Hippopotamus vs Crocodile’, ‘Polar Bear vs Walrus Colony’, ‘Giraffe vs Giraffe‘, ‘Caterpillar vs Frog‘, ‘Frog vs Poison Newt’, ‘Rubber bands vs Water Melon’,  ‘Sarcastic fringehead vs Sarcastic fringehead’, ‘Jaguar vs Crocodile‘, ‘Snake vs Crocodile‘, ‘Centipede vs Snake‘, ‘Moray Eel vs White Tip Reef Shark‘, ‘Rabbit vs Snake‘, ‘Octopus vs Octopus‘, ‘Rat vs Snake’, ‘Iguana vs Snakes‘, ‘Eel vs Octopus vs Human‘ and ‘Red Octopus vs Swimmer Crab‘ here is ‘Bombardier beetle vs Toad’:

It’s a tie !!!

Animals have evolved all sorts of tactics to ward off predators and avoid getting munched—but Asian bombardier beetles (Pheropsophus jessoensis) can hatch an escape plan even after they’ve been swallowed. Once inside a predator’s stomach, the beetles eject a hot chemical spray that induces vomiting. To find out just how effective that chemical spray is, scientists collected bombardier beetles from forests in central Japan, took them back to their lab, and fed them to two predators, the Japanese common toad and the Japanese stream toad. The toads snatched up the beetles in every single trial. But just moments later, a sound like an explosion burst from their bellies, in some cases followed by a beetle breakout. Nearly half—43%—of the toads vomited up the beetles they had swallowed. And the beetles walked away unscathed. Learn more here.

Why incompetent people think they’re amazing

November 12, 2017

How good are you with money? What about reading people’s emotions? How healthy are you, compared to other people you know? Knowing how our skills stack up against others is useful in many ways. But psychological research suggests that we’re not very good at evaluating ourselves accurately. In fact, we frequently overestimate our own abilities. David Dunning describes the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The Hot List !!!

October 30, 2017

Each year The Educator magazine announces its list of the “hottest” educators in Australia. And guess who made the cut in 2017, yep – Me …

Educator Hot List Cover.jpg

See the full Hot List here.

Read more about why I was recognised here.

TE Hot List 2017 medal.png

 

Might alien life be buried under too much ice to phone Earth?

October 20, 2017

Why haven’t we had alien contact? Blame icy ocean worlds perhaps.

Enceladus.jpg

It’s only recently that astronomers have come to appreciate how common oceans are in our solar system; evidence for them can be seen on several moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune, and even distant Pluto. These worlds all have water ice as a major component of their crusts, which forms towering mountains and cracked canyons on their surfaces but melts into liquid water at lower depths. Hydrothermal vents on these ocean beds might pump nutrients into their surroundings, similar to ecosystems at the bottom of Earth’s oceans. Such nurseries for life—shielded from space by a thick ice shell—might even be more productive than our own exposed environment.

And should living organisms on icy ocean worlds evolve into intelligent creatures, they probably wouldn’t know the night sky as well as us humans. Perhaps the equivalent of their “space program” would simply be boring through to the frozen surface of their planet. Learn more here.

How To Learn Faster

October 2, 2017

Mixing Aluminum and Mercury is crazy

August 31, 2017

Check it out, it’s really cool …

Amazing Examples of Animal Camouflage

June 21, 2017

Camouflage is really cool!

Check out these great examples of animal camouflage

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More here.