Saturday, June 23, 2012

How not to encourage girls to study science

What were they thinking? It really beggars belief that a whole host of people in the EU Commission got it so wrong.

Of course, I'm talking about THAT video. If you haven't seen it, check it out below.

As part of an entirely laudable campaign  (complete with #sciencegirlthing hashtag)to encourage girls to study science and think about careers in science, the European Commission released a launch video which was so far wide of the mark that they had to confirm that it wasn't some sort of joke. As one spokesperson for the Commission put it on twitter: "(the) Commission doesn't really do irony".

The video seems to have been removed from the campaign's Youtube account but not before some kind soul copied it and reposted the offending clip.

To be fair, I'm sure no harm was meant. The campaign website itself seems fine, but perhaps a little light on detail. The Commission moved to deflect some of the online criticism late on Friday evening by encouraging their Twitter followers to help them build a list of #realwomeninscience.

The swift and overwhelming online reaction seems to have ensured that the video will live long online as an example of how not to promote science (on anything for that matter).

At least they got one bit right. Male scientists are all tall, clean shaven and handsome in their glasses and white coat......ahem. ‪

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Science in the (Curious) City

A series of events in Cork City this month should inspire creativity, spark innovation and encourage participants to "seek answers to life's great questions", according to the organisers.

In association with Dublin City of Science, CuriousCity is a collection of events running from June 23rd - 25th, all centred around the concept of STEAM - science, technology, engineering, arts and maths.

What I like about this series of events is that it is an attempt to move beyond concept of STEM and integrate the arts and sciences.

The event includes a science picnic at the Lifetime Lab; a retrospective of the work of Paul Gregg at Triskel Christchurch; a science rap workshop with DJ Stevie G; a science storytelling event for children at UCC; and a popup cinema showing films from the National Centre for Scientific Research in France.

Most tantalisingly of all, CuriousCity also promises some Spontaneous Secret Science events throughout the week.

You can find full details of all events on the CuriousCity webpage.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Here comes the Science Squad

Fronted by Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain, Kathriona Devereux and Jonathan McCrea, RTE have just kicked off their new weekly science programme for the Summer season.

The Science Squad promises to take an entertaining look at some of the exciting and important scientific research that is currently underway in Ireland.

The first programme, which aired today, featured research from CLARITY at UCD. They are working with IRFU physiotherapist Brian Green to develop systems which can automatically detect collisions in elite level Rugby Union. The data could help to advise coaching staff as to when a player has received too many heavy tackles and should be substituted from a game.

The show looked at work in UCC on a pioneering neo-natal brain seizure detection system and UCD's SMARTLab which enables disabled people who have lost or have limited use of speech and/or their limbs to speak and perform tasks such as playing music or operating computers by using their eyes instead.

The Science Squad is transmitted on Thursday evenings on RTE One. The episodes are also available to view on RTE Player. You can also follow @TheScienceSquad on twitter.

Edwin Butler Honoured

I've written before about Edwin Butler - the man who was born in Kilkee Co. Clare and went on to become known as the greatest plant pathologists and mycologists of his generation.

Now, Butler has been honoured in his native Kilkee with the unveiling of a plaque at Kilkee Library last month.

Born in Kilkee in 1874, Butler went on to study medicine at Queen's College Cork (now UCC) but never practiced. Developing an interest in fungi and plant pathology, he was eventually to become known as the "Father of Indian Plant Pathology" and the founding director of the Imperial Bureau of Mycology at Kew, London.

Butler's book 'Plant Pathology' was to become the international standard for teaching the subject. Butler was a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) and he was knighted in 1939.

Tuesday's event was attended by Prof. Peter Jones, Acting Head of Plant Science at University College Cork who gave a brief outline of Butler's connection to Cork.

His Excellency, the Indian Ambassador to Ireland Mr. Debasish Chakravarti was also in attendance to mark Butler's contribution to science in India. The Mayor of Co. Clare, Pat Hayes unveiled a plaque in Butler's honour at the newly renovated Kilkee Library.

Another in series of fitting tributes to one of Ireland's neglected scientific heroes.

Coral Beach, Sneem, Co. Kerry

A relaxing break near Sneem Co. Kerry recently allowed for a visit to one of Ireland's two coral beaches.

The beach, near Gleesk Pier is part of the Kerry Geopark. Ireland's only other coral beach can be found near Carraroe, Co. Galway.

While most Irish beaches are made of sand, this beach is made up of tiny pieces of dessicated and sun-bleached algae. Not coral at all, but quite unusual in an Irish context.

It's quite an isolated spot, but if you're in the area it's worth a visit.

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