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Education Wars: the Empire Strikes Back?

One of the difficulties of judging the ways of people is the fact that highly intelligent individuals...

Is this a Huorn?

Those familiar with the Lord of the Rings will remember the Huorns.  According to the Lord...

Palyn- or Palin-?

About ten years ago, what is now the Electron Microscopy Laboratory at the University of Reading...

Is colour helpful?

A couple of days ago, I read this on Real Clear Science:Why Spelling Tests Don’t Help Kids Spell...

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Robert H OlleyRSS Feed of this column.

Until recently, I worked in the Polymer Physics Group of the Physics Department at the University of Reading.

I would describe myself as a Polymer Morphologist. I am not an astronaut,

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Dengue fever is a nasty disease found all over the tropics, with names like break-bone fever referring to the severity of the pain it causes.  It is carried mostly by the mosquito Aedes aegypti, but also by related species.  I have just read three reports on the BBC science site of techniques aimed at controlling the fever by attacking the mosquito in its sex life.
Here at the University of Reading, the good folks of the Association for Science Education have been holding their annual conference, and RU staff members like myself are invited to participate.

The event manifests itself by an exhibition marquee taking up the larger part of our central lawn, and various traders and institutions are plying their wares.  One which caught my eye was
a Mobile Science Lab – Data logging & computing in a single product
with 65 varieties of probes: humidity, temperature, oxygen for starters.  The brochure describes it as a


  • Student computer with built-in data logger, removing logger/PC communication problems (I like that aspect!!)

Even on this side of the Atlantic, we have noticed:
Burris, standing at the governor’s side, said he’s eager to get to work in Washington “to face a convergence of parallel crises.”
 One’s first thought is that either in Chigaco or Washington the geometry is of Riemann’s elliptic variety. 

But it then struck me, that the word “parallel” has long taken on the meaning “simultaneous” as in multi-tasking or even parallel processing.  Another case where mathematical and scientific usage run counter to (or even athwart – lovely old Anglo Saxon word) common usage.
I have received this request from a friend roughly 5,000 miles away:
My maternal cousin has to prepare a write up for her school.  She needs to write something on 'fun physics'.

You may remember the melamine scandal where in September this year over a thousand babies were made ill and four died as a result of producers putting melamine, or worse, melamine scrap  into milk to increase its apparent protein content as determined by standard analytical methods (basically nitrogen determination.)
The British Medical Journal has been busy overturning medical myths, according to BBC News.  
"Both physicians and non-physicians sometimes believe things about our bodies that just are not true,"
wrote Dr Rachel Vreeman and Dr Aaron Carroll in this august publication.  But the BBC continues:
We've all been told to put a hat on in winter because most heat is lost through the head.

The researchers even found that the US Army Field manual for survival recommends covering your head in cold weather because around 40-45% of body heat is lost through the head.