Posts Tagged ‘study’

ChemWiki, free textbook for University students

// March 3rd, 2011 // 4 Comments » // Science Communication

This week, thousands of Australians went back to Uni starting a new semester of study. For some, science is their bag and they’re picking up a chemistry class or two. I’ve been there, and they’ve got a big year ahead.

There’s nothing quite like studying chem. Is it the nerdiness? The lab work? The elegant complexity and simplicity of laws? Perhaps its the joy of pushing electrons, pure love of a benzene ring, cherished conjugated systems or perfectly balancing equations.

But it takes a while to get to that state of love, like dating an attractive person with a terribly annoying habit. Don’t drop out, seek counseling at the ChemWiki.

An open access textbook, ChemWiki is a collaborative approach towards chemistry education. Students and faculty members write and rewrite sections to make it accurate and easy to understand. It’s been in development for two and a half years, and over 2000 people have contributed.

I first heard about it when it was still an infant wiki in swaddling clothes from Kyle Finchsigmate at The Chem Blog, which is now sadly shut down. Kyle is the reason I started blogging, being the first blog I subscribed to after his Nacho Average Cheesecake post changed my life.

Since those small beginnings, $2000 and a handful of uni classes spreading the news, it has grown pretty huge. It’s at the stage where it could replace paper textbooks for Uni chem courses, which is a saving of at least $150 per student. It’s ideal for Universities who are embracing new technologies in the classroom, like the University of Adelaide who gave a free iPad to every new student this year.

Unlike paper textbooks (and most hypertextbooks too,) the ChemWiki is designed in a non-linear way. You can jump from topic to topic with hyperlinks, so knowledge is constructed to suit the student. For me, chemistry only really came together in third year when the separate subjects wove together like a tapestry. It suddenly ALL made sense. But with non-linear learning, its easier to see patterns and connections and build up a frame of understanding as you go. I’m a fan.

I can’t recommend the ChemWiki enough. It covers coursework about analytical, biological, organic and inorganic topics, and is perfect for Chemistry students at Uni. Get involved and spread the word!

Connecting via common ancestors and Genographics – Interview with Wolfgang Haak

// December 8th, 2010 // Comments Off on Connecting via common ancestors and Genographics – Interview with Wolfgang Haak // Recent Research, Science Communication

At the Genographic Event at the RiAus I also interviewed Dr Wolfgang Haak, who spoke about Y-chromosome markers to determine paternal ancestry. He’s been involved in the Genographic Project for three and a half years.

What are the benefits of understanding ancestry?

It’s pretty much a personal thing, at the end of the day, because I suppose everyone’s interested in his or her own genetic history. This is my personal driving force, finding out more about myself. Where’s my place in this planet, in this world, where do I tie into the global picture? That’s a big motivation for me, and as I find out more as I work with people that it’s the same motor or driving force with them as well.

We share a common ancestry after all, there’s a common interest in our genetic history as well.

What first attracted you to the Genographic Project?

I have always been interested in genetics, but I actually come from an anthropologic background and genetics is certainly a part of that. I also come from an Ancient DNA lab. This was a step further into more modern population genetics. This is about getting both things together. Having a modern day perspective, plus adding a timely depth to that picture that we get from modern day diversity.

Tell us about your own ancestry, have you genotyped yourself?

Yes, I’ve done both. Mitochondrial, I’m haplogroup H, and I can further pin that down to group H1, so that is a Palaeolithic, Mesolithic one that might have come into Europe prior to the last glacial maximum, around modern day Spain or Italy or even a South Eastern refuge. It’s not entirely clear but we’ll find out over the next couple of years.

On the paternal side its even more enigmatic. I’m part of a North African lineage that probably originated around the Horn of Africa, so there’s that connection on the Eastern side of Africa where it connects to Saudi Arabia, and that has a high frequency there into the Nile Valley, and from it spreads into South Eastern Europe. Not entirely sure when it spread across the Mediterranean region, but probably historic times rather than prehistoric times.

The Genographic Project in Adelaide

// December 8th, 2010 // Comments Off on The Genographic Project in Adelaide // Science Communication

The Genographic Project in Adelaide

Last night I was lucky enough to attend the Genographic Project event at the RiAus, where they discussed results of samples collected from the Adelaide public.

The event was a huge success. Every seat was full, and I was fortunate to find a spot tucked in a corner. And that despite the torrential rain that hit earlier in the afternoon, blocking traffic around the city.

One thing that really struck me about the night was the feeling of connection. The billions of humans around today arose from small populations 50,000 years ago. If you start looking back far enough, you share the same ancestral group as the stranger sitting three rows down. In a sense we’re all brothers and sisters.

As more people become involved in the project, we find out more about where and when different groups migrated around the globe. Being involved makes you a piece of the puzzle that will uncover our stories, which have been lost to the past.

CERN trap 38 atoms of antimatter

// November 18th, 2010 // Comments Off on CERN trap 38 atoms of antimatter // Recent Research

Facility at CERN

For the first time ever, antimatter has been trapped by a magnetic field allowing it to be studied in detail.

The 38 atoms were antihydrogen, theoretically the same as hydrogen but having the opposite charge. Where hydrogen is made of one proton, one electron, antihydrogen is made with an antiproton and a positron.

Antihydrogen was first made at CERN in 1995, and in 2002 they could make large enough quantities for study. The problem is that matter and antimatter annihilate each other when they meet, so the antihydrogen is short lived. The ALPHA project has changed that. Using strong and complex magnetic fields stops the antimatter from coming in contact with any matter.

This technique allowed the antihydrogen to last for a tenth of a second, plenty of time to study the properties of antimatter.

Antimatter has always been a bit of a mystery. During the Big Bang, equal amounts of antimatter and matter should have been made. But for some reason, everything around us is made of matter and the antimatter seems to have disappeared.

The research was published yesterday in Nature online.

ResearchBlogging.orgAndresen, G., & et al (2010). Trapped antihydrogen Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature09610

Here’s the press release from CERN, and here’s a neat video all about it.

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