World Environment Day. #WED2014. Ecosia. Recruit a B. One Billion Trees.

If like most of us, you regularly search the internet then, wherever you are this World Environment Day, you could be replanting the rain forest along with The Sciencebook Trust (TST) network. Everyone is invited to take part. From June 5th, simply switch to Ecosia as your search engine and watch as the trees get planted. It’s as easy as that. How is this possible, you ask? Ecosia is a search engine that donates 80% of its income to the Nature Conservancy Plant One Billion Trees campaign in Brazil. So be it amusing cats, world news or GCSE revision that begins your internet browsing, you can search to your heart’s content and plant trees for free at the same time. We’re impressed at TST especially because Ecosia is also completely CO2 neutral. In one company we find climate change, sustainability and innovation being addressed by a small group of switched on designers.

“Ecosia lives from its commitment to people, planet and profits. By turning a collection of small, everyday actions into something greater, Ecosia builds on the hope that we might one day live in a world that doesn’t need protecting. This is the change it seeks.” B Lab.

 

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 I’m now thinking about the importance of forests on a daily basis. I wonder how much clean water, air filtration, carbon storage, climate regulation or habitats for people and nature I will have helped by the project’s end date of 2025. In the UK, The Forestry Commission, The Woodland Trust, and a host of dedicated organisations are tree planting, while researchers with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences research Council (BBSRC) are working on projects to help address threats to UK forests, woods and trees. However, Just 12% of Britain remains covered by woodland compared to 75% around 6000 years ago.  This is largely due to changes in land use, Dr Dan Bebber explained during a tree measuring field trip last year to the Earthwatch temperate forest research project in Oxford. The same is true for other forests across the globe, so The Nature Conservancy Project reminds us. Development along the coast, growing cities, illegal logging and unsustainable agriculture and ranching practices are responsible for 90 per cent of Brazil’s Tropical Atlantic Forest being lost

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image: Scott Warren

For Ecosia rainforest restoration is not a gargantuan task. It’s reason to exist. Ecosia, you see, is a B Corporation certified by non profit B Lab. Being a B Corp is something special. Currently there are 1000 B Corps from 33 countries and over 60 industries all providing goods and services in ways which benefit people, the environment and generate profit that’s fair and transparent. These companies are redefining success in business. What I really like is that anyone can ‘Recruit a B Corporation.’

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If you know of a profitable and accountable company that really is doing its best for people and for the planet then B Corp status could be just a recommendation away. TST featured innovators are definitely worth considering.

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So too are local Oxford businesses Indigo, for clothes shopping with an eco twist http://www.shopindigo.co.uk, and the inspired Osney Lock Hydro http://www.osneylockhydro.co.uk . Equally B Corp worthy, though further afield, are Natures Own Design (NOD) http://www.nodglobal.com and Terracycle http://www.terracycle.com/en-US Here is innovation that really makes a difference.

David VanderDussen (beekeeper and CEO of NOD Apiary Products, Canada ) and Albe Zakes (Director of Public Relations at Terracycle US) are solving real problems and innovating to the benefit of the planet.

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A Varroa Destructor Mite

At the International Bee Research Association Conference last year, David’s invention ‘Mite Away Quick Strips’, was poised to take up the fight in the UK against one of the honey bees greatest threats, the Varroa Destructor mite. This eight legged, eyeless, bee blood sucking parasite would be the size of a dinner plate on your body, David explained. NOD’s innovation could soon be helping to reverse the decline of honeybee populations across the UK and internationally.

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Picture: British Beekeepers Association

Terracycle’s first product was organic fertiliser made from worm poo and packaged in pre used green soft drinks bottles. The company has gone on to creating a system for otherwise non-recyclable waste to be recycled and up-cycled into new products with the help of 35 million people in 22 countries.

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‘Waste only exists in humanity. There is no waste in nature. Everything is reused, everything is recycled and we’re just taking a very natural process and trying to turn it into a business plan.’

Albe Zakes (Director of Public Relations, Terracycle, Trenton New Jersey c/o www.Beyondtheline.org)

So, what B Corporation Company suggestions would you make, I wonder?

This World Environment Day TST’s network of schools, teachers, young people, scientists, researchers and companies are being asked to switch to Ecosia. With your help on Wednesday 5th June, replanting the Brazilian Atlantic Forest while searching the internet really could be a breeze.

Pauline Rutter

Sciencebook Project Director

Email: contact@sciencebook.org.uk

www.sciencebook.org.uk

https://www.facebook.com/scibook

@sciencebook

Full Contact Mathematics!

Dr Thomas E. Woolley DPhil, MMATH, AHEA

Mathematics is not normally a spectator’s sport. That is not to say that maths is dull. The pleasure you get from solving a problem is one of the biggest thrills I know. In mathematics, what you produce is true now and forever. No other science can boast such a claim. Your results will outlast your lifetime making your knowledge immortal. Yet, a casual observer gets none of this elation and often is confused by the masses of esoteric symbols that mathematicians use. This is why I feel that is every scientist’s duty to engage and interest the population in what they are doing (not least because it is usually the public that funds our research!).

In order to reach a diverse audience, I update a personal weblog that explores the lighter side of applied mathematics and contribute to other websites communicating cutting edge research [1,2,3]. Through projects as Numberphille and Everything is Mathematical, I have appeared in webvids to inform people about curious numerical properties and challenge them to mathematical puzzles [4,5]. I also created illustrations for Marcus du Sautoy’s recent book “The Number Mysteries” and developed the content into an entire further education course, which I tutor, for Oxford’s continuing education department [6]. But why should I want people to understand what I am doing? Simply put, outreach is a way of passing on the joy I get from mathematics and that moment of clarity that people achieve from your explanation is its own reward. As an example, a recent talk I gave at the Cambridge Science Festival elicited the following email response from a father in the audience, “I would like to say a big ‘Thank You’ for bringing maths alive for my 14 year old son. It has been difficult trying to inspire him and your approach was inspirational and delivery very funny.” What more could a person want? I have passed on my joy of science to the next generation and not only do I hope that they surpass us with their discoveries, but I hope they remember how they became interested in their subject and pass on their knowledge to inspire future scientists.

I love doing outreach and would do it regardless of the recognition. However, I have been fortunate enough to work with the BBC and other production companies as a mathematical advisor on TV series’, such as “The Code” and “Dara O’Brian’s School of Hard Sums” [8]. I was chosen for these roles because the production companies recognised passion for explaining science.

For those of you whose interest I have piqued and would like to know more, follow some of the links I have posted below. These projects are always looking for more people to help. Do not forget outreach does not always have to be about educating the crowd. Talk to your friends and family and convey your interests to them. Not only will their constructive criticisms make you a better speaker but their questions will inform of which parts need better explanation. Finally, try to remember what you did not know about your subject and what finally caused the science to “click” and make sense. Use these as starting points for your presenting skills. I wish you the best of luck and hope to be taught by you in the future.

 

Links:

[1] http://laughmaths.blogspot.co.uk

[2] http://sharesci.net/guestwp/?p=35

[3] http://www.sciencebook.org.uk

[4] http://www.numberphile.com/team/index.html

[5] http://everythingismathematical.com/challenges

[6] http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/V100-96

[7] http://www.mathsinthecity.com/node/310

[8] http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5014730

How do scientists and researchers become inspiring and influential communicators?

Pauline Rutter TST Projects Director reflects on the value to scientists of presenting at science events (April 2013)

The Sciencebook Trust has been helping out by providing excellent opportunities for scientists and engineers to present their work in the areas of climate change, sustainability and innovation to young people.

It is no mean feat to stand up in front of packed audiences of eager youngsters and explain complex ideas like the schematics of ‘Bridget’ a Mars Rover prototype. However this is exactly what Andrew, Chris and Vicki did at the TST ‘Engineering for Space: Mars Rover Event’ in Oxfordshire this March. Over two days 848 primary and secondary school children, Scouts, Girl Guides, group leaders, teachers and parents heard about innovations in space technology and systems which have lead not only to the construction of ‘Bridget’ and the other rovers but which have most recently resulted in the successful landing of Curiosity on the Red Planet.

We know such events are worthwhile judging by the reactions of our audiences, who enthusiastically ask questions and take photos. One primary school teacher comments ‘the presentation was at multiple levels, which catered for all of our students. What a fabulous event and much appreciated. I will follow it up with a project at school.’

However what’s in it for the scientists? Apart from the presentations there are photos and interviews with the local radio and press wanting to summarise the event for wider public.

Space Craft Systems Engineer, Andrew Shepherds says “I really enjoy going into schools and seeing the enthusiastic students and trying to encourage them into going into STEM subjects. It’s quite nice to see the up and coming generation so enthused about a subject that I’ve obviously felt passionate about for quite a long time.” Andrew adds “It’s been absolutely brilliant and really good fun as well. Practise does make perfect.”

Electrical Engineer Chris Bachelor has been involved in building Earth Observation Satellites for the European Space Agency. He also finds this type of event really rewarding. Following an evening presentation to over 200 he comments: “It’s great to interact with people who are interested in science, technology, engineering and maths and also to know what interests them.”

 Experienced STEM Ambassador Vicki Lonnon spends most of her time working in Product Quality Assurance and making sure that the space grade products built for customers will actually do what they set out to do. For Vicki “The best thing about being a STEM Ambassador is being able to go out and to give something back to local communities, to people across the country and to really help students to understand that science, technology, maths and engineering offer really cool careers and are cool subjects to be interested in.” Vicki and her colleagues agree that these opportunities really help scientists to improve their presentation skills. This is general public facing career development. For Vicki going out and talking to large audiences also helps with the day to day work of a scientist through building confidence and clarity in presentations to their work teams and colleagues.

Ultimately it’s about putting young people at the centre of the event and really reaching out to them with great material, live demonstrations and manageable information. TST also supports with additional information and online content at www.sciencebook.org.uk Hopefully we’ve inspired them.

 And have we inspired them? That’s a definite ‘yes’ from that secondary school pupil whose feedback reads ‘really interesting and I want to learn more.’ Then there’s the year 6 primary pupil who says about the event ‘interesting and fun. I would love to be a scientist’ and lets not forget the Scouts and Girl Guides who turned up on mass with one leader commenting ‘It was fantastic to see engineering portrayed in a way that would appeal to youngsters’ and a member of his troop adding ‘I have enjoyed watching the Rover/Engineering for Space videos and learning new facts. I want to be a scientist now.’ All 848 guests are now connected to the learning and ideas of leading edge scientists thanks to the clarity and enthusiasm of out STEM Ambassador visitors and to the support of the Cokethorpe School venue and voluntary TST team.

To find out more about becoming a STEM Ambassador in your area got to http://www.stemnet.org.uk/content/stem-ambassadors

As a STEM Ambassador, teacher, parent/guardian or group leader to receive the TST E-newsletter and to hear about future events please email Pauline Rutter (TST Projects Director: Contact@sciencebook.org.uk

Why go to Mars?

Vicki Lonnon – Astrium UK. Interviewed by – Lauren Aged 8. Year 4 Botley Primary School Oxford.

Lauren : Could you tell us what your name is and what you do?
Vicki Lonnon : My name is Vicki Lonnon and I am a Product Assurance Engineer at Astrium. This means that I ensure all the work we do meets our customer’s requirements and specifications. I do this by confirming that the various engineering disciplines work together whilst adhering to specific requirements.

L: Why go to Mars? Why not go to any other planet in our solar system?
VL:
That’s a very good question. We could choose to explore either Venus or Mars as they are Earth’s nearest neighbours. However, Venus is a little bit more difficult to land on as it’s not a very nice environment. Moreover, past studies have suggested that it wouldn’t be easy to find evidence of microbial life on Venus. In contrast, we think Mars could have had flowing liquid, possibly water, on its surface. So Mars could have supported life.

L: How do you communicate with Bridget?
VL:
We use what looks like a Play Station controller that sends special signals using radio waves. It’s essentially a big remote control car.

L: When did you build the Mars Rover and Bridget?
VL:
Bridget was first built in 2005, so she has been around for a little while now. Her purpose was to demonstrate our technological abilities.

L: Are there any signs of life on Mars?
VL:
It is still an open question. Evidence from the Phoenix Rover exposed a shiny white deposit, which four days later had started to disappear. We think that it was ice but we weren’t able to analyse it in more detail. If there is any life on Mars it will have to be below the surface because conditions on the surface of Mars won’t allow liquid water to be present. It will go from a solid to a gas straight away. However, it could exist buried underneath, where the temperature and the pressure are slightly more favorable for liquid conditions. Equally, the surface of Mars has a very thin atmosphere, which isn’t very protective. Factors such as temperature and radiation from the sun make it quite difficult for anything to survive on the surface. But, two meters down, 99% of that radiation is shielded, so you are protected from it. Thus, if there is any organic life form living on Mars it will be down at those sort of depths, which is why we have to drill. The Exomars Rover, which will be launched in 2018, will be taking a two meter long drill, allowing us to look for life at this level.

Lauren:  Thank you!

Engineering for Space Event 2013

Sciencebook’s first day roving on Mars
Wow! The Sciencebook Trust’s visit of Bridget the Mars Rover and her Astrium colleagues to Cokethorpe School has been a huge success so far! Scouts, guides, primary and secondary school pupils of Oxfordshire have been enthralled! We’ve also had a lot of grown-ups wishing that they were space scientists too. Hopefully we have some future space engineers and scientists in the making now ready to tackle the big challenges. Prepared to create earth observing kit that will help address the challenges of climate change, as well as to venture to new planets seeking signs of life.
Words like “awesome” “amazing” and “epic” to review the experience were endorsed by the number of people wanting their photo taken with Bridget, and it certainly wasn’t just the children!


Seeing the Mars Rover move across and over rocks, presentations of the amazing technology involved, explanation of the mission to find life on Mars and inspiring, inclusive presentations by the visiting Astrium Space Engineers generated a lot of enthusiasm – and questions!


There were some really smart questions: like “Does the Rover ever have to rest?” – the answer is yes, if she doesn’t have enough power she goes into a safe mode until she has enough solar charge.
We saw wheel walking and autonomous movement.
It turns out that Bridget is not gold just for appearances, though she does look lovely, but so to keep the equipment inside at the correct temperature; she is cared for like a marathon runner.
We learned that dust on Mars is dry, not sticky, so that after a dust storm the cameras ought still to be able to see.

A big concern for Sciencebook’s environmentally conscious young folks was that because the technology does not yet exist the Rovers can’t yet be brought back. This saw the Astrium Scientists posed some really tricky questions like: “Will you ever bring the Rovers back?”  “What happens if life does develop on Mars and you’ve left old rovers there?” and were told by the visiting scientists (with wry smiles) that as the space engineers of the future it will be their challenge.

The response to the question “Have you been to Mars?” from a Beaver cub met with some small disappointed faces. The answer to the follow up question “When will we go to Mars?” left a dreamy look on some faces and goosebumps on others… “Hopefully in our lifetimes. Maybe it will be you?…….”