Goblin Shark

Goblin Shark

Week: 29th April – 5th May 2013

Only a few correct answers to this weeks mystery creature…. it is the GOBLIN SHARK.


Image source: Wikimedia commons
Image source: Wikimedia commons


The goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) is another deep sea dweller and is often referred to as a living fossil as its lineage can be traced back 125 million years.  It is unique among sharks with its unusual protruding snout and extendable jaw. The colour of these sharks ranges from pinkish grey to a deep pink.  Its muscle tone is weak and it is thought to be a poor swimmer.  It uses electric field receptors within its snout to detect its food, mainly crustaceans, cephalopods and certain deep sea fish.  Goblin sharks typically grow to two to three metres in length, with the females thought to be the larger of the sexes.

Fun Friday – make a balloon hovercraft

Here is a simple and fun experiment to try at home – how to make a balloon hovercraft.  I was temporarily abandoned by my junior scientists so had to step in front of the camera for a change….. so everybody…. meet Dr. How ;0)

Hope you have fun with this experiment and do please drop me a line or a little comment to tell me what you think or how you got on!

…and if you like it, please spread the word!

Thought of the day – what is your earliest memory?

Thought of the day – what is your earliest memory?

What is your earliest memory?  Mine is my third birthday party!  I remember getting a xylophone –  it was bright, colourful and made a lot of noise!  I sat beside the Christmas tree playing with this great new toy, my back to all my little party guests!

photo credit: fred_v via photopin cc
photo credit: fred_v via photopin cc


If you think back to your earliest memory you might come up with something similar to mine… well maybe minus the xylophone, the noise and the antisocial behaviour…. but you might find your earliest memories start about the same age.  Is this when we first start to form memories?  Do we need to reach a sufficient level of cognitive and language skills to do so?  Apparently not!

Studies have shown that we do form memories from a much younger age, however, these memories can be lost as we age, so, effectively our earliest memory milestone keeps moving.  Children as young as two or three may give valid events as their earliest memories but they may not be able to recall these memories if asked again a few years later.  So when do our set of early memories settle down to what we carry into adulthood?  Usually by the age of ten!

Why do most of us have our earliest memory from an event around the age of three….

  • by this age children tend to have a sufficient vocabulary to allow them express and detail their memory
  • this is usually the age where the sense of “self” develops
  • the hypocampus (the area of the brain associated with memory) has matured enough to adequately retain memories for long periods of time


Studies are ongoing with regard to what factors may influence our earliest memories but some interesting facts have emerged such as suggestions that females tend to have earlier memories than males and that there does not seem to be any bias towards positive or negative memories.  Also, we are as likely to report our earliest memory being of a mundane nature (like me and my xylophone) as of a significant event.  Some research that I found particularly interesting was the influence of culture on the age of earliest memory.  In cultures that promote discussion with children from a young age about themselves and their feelings and thought, earlier memories are more likely to be reported.  This is particularly true for cultures that put a strong emphasis on the past (such as New Zealand Maori).  Asian cultures tend to put less influence on a child as an individual and more on a group or national mentality, and these cultures tended to report an older age for first memories.

…just a thought!


What is your earliest memory?  I would love to hear your earliest memory and what age you were when the event took place!

Need a little cheering up?

Need a little cheering up?

There must be something in the air today… I was met by two very sad looking kids at school pick up, my little three year old spent half his day crying and a poor friend sounded really low on the phone.  To be honest I am not exactly full of the joys myself .  So how can we cheer ourselves up when we are low… and is there a science to it?

Most people have their own ways of shaking off the blues.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t;  Here is a list of some possible ways to cheer yourself up, with a bit of science behind each!

1. Become an avid sports fan:
Apparently sports fans are less prone to depression and have a higher level of happiness due to the sense of connection and belonging associated with following a team!

2. Have a beer:
The mere taste of beer has been shown to increase levels of dopamine when compared with soft drinks.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that can increase our sense of pleasure and well being.

3. Head to the gym:
No big surprises with this one… the endorphin release we get from exercise makes us calmer, more productive and happier people!  If you combine exercise with being in the great outdoors you can increase your happiness quotient even further.

This leads me nicely into my last point… and the one that works best for me… being in the outdoors, or more precisely…

4. Get digging:
This always works for me.  No matter what mood I might be in getting my hand stuck into the soil seems to really give me a boost.  I thought it was due to a combination of factors… free air, a bit of exercise, a distracting project and the therapeutic effect of being among nature.  It appears there is even more to it…  the presence of a non-patoghenic bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae within the soil itself.  M. vaccae has been shown to increase serotonin levels in mice and create responses similar to treatment with antidepressants.  Treatment with this friendly bacteria has been shown to increase mood in cancer patients and has been linked with improvement in cognitive function.

So, I’m off to dig a hole in the garden, while jogging on the spot, drinking a beer and cheering at the chickens to see which “team” makes it to the coop first.  I figure even if it doesn’t cheer me up it will certainly get the rest of the family laughing…. and laughter has to be the best cure of all for beating the blues!

Laughter... the best medicine!
Laughter… the best medicine!


Kayan slow loris

Kayan slow loris

Week: 22nd – 28th April 2013

How did you get on with this weeks CAN YOU NAME THIS CREATURE?  Did you guess it?  Got a fair few correct answers from people;  It is a Kayan slow loris!!!

Image credit: Ch’ien C. Lee

The slow loris is a close relative of the lemur and can be found in South east Asia.

These cute looking animals are listed as endangered and have been coveted as pets; not only do they not make good pets but they are also rare among primates in that they have a poisonous bite…. so their teeth are often removed as they are passed into the pet trade.  They often die of infection from such mishandling!

The slow loris is recognised by it’s large eyes, distinctive fur markings and lack of tail.  The Kayan slow loris was only recognised as a distinct species of slow loris is 2012 when more detailed recording of markings and features where recorded among the slow loris of Borneo.

Stay tuned for a new CAN YOU NAME THIS CREATURE post tomorrow!

Thought of the day… "the passing of the seasons"

Thought of the day… "the passing of the seasons"

Well it is official… Spring is here for sure… the Cuckoo was heard from our garden yesterday, not by me I’m afraid, not yet anyway, but it definitely marks the ticking of nature’s clock, the passing of the seasons.  The cuckoo is calling, tick that box, all is well with the world!

I have to admit I love the anticipation of each seasonal landmark.  The first snowdrop, the arrival of the golden daffodils, the synchronous timing of the budding of each tree, like a perfectly tuned orchestra, each player patiently awaiting it’s moment and joining the symphony at exactly the correct point in time.

photo credit: zenera via photopin cc
photo credit: zenera via photopin cc

My children have lived in this house all their young lives and I am charmed to see them remarking on these  natural milestones too.  They begin to remember their own landmarks of the passing of the seasons and ask me when a certain one will arrive.  These things they have learned on their own… or more precisely, Mother Nature has taught them, tapping them gently on the shoulder to anchor the arrival of each new marvel.

We are lucky to live in the country where nature so beautifully illustrates the passage of the seasons.  The hedgerow by our house, each plant revealing another milestone.  A natural metronome tapping out the appearance of each… the colts foot, lesser celandine, cowslips, dandelions, herb roberts, speed-well, the flowering gorse, bird’s foot trefoil, angelica, meadow sweet, valerian.  As one disappears another arrives and there is a feeling of familiarity and contentment in seeing an old friend emerging once again.  Each a lovely reminder of our early years in this house, before we had children, when my husband and I would walk the lane together and he would point out the arrival of each new plant, teaching me it’s name.  Now every time I see a familiar arrival I remember that special time.

….just a thought!

Fun Friday – the coke and mentos experiment…with a bit of a twist!!

Fun Friday – the coke and mentos experiment…with a bit of a twist!!

It’s Friday so that can only mean one thing… another fun experiment to try, think you are going to like this one!

Nearly everyone seems to have heard of the classic “Coke & Mentos” experiment so we started with that…


You will need:


A 2 Litre bottle of coke (Diet coke is best as it doesn’t leave a sticky mess)
A packed of mentos mints
Basically you want to place the bottle of coke on the ground and add as many mentos to it at once as possible and then stand way back!!


How do you add the mentos?


  • Well you could pop one or two in quickly and it will work fairly well.
  • You could roll a piece of paper into a tube, sit it in the neck of the bottle and, gently pinch the base while you      fill it with mentos (up to ten is about right) and then let then all slip into the bottle when you release the pinch at the base!
  • There are devices specifically designed for delivering mentos into coke…. I bought this one from my local book  shop…
  • With this you insert the pin, load up with mentos, screw the devise onto the top of your bottle of coke and then pull the pin to release the mints into the coke.  There is even a little ring of plastic that drops down and covers the pin holes so all the coke goes upwards only.
  • You can make your own devise, like we did here (thanks Hubby)… does pretty much the same thing.
  • This is the one the I use for kids parties and events and it goes down a treat.  I don’t bother plugging the holes at the side so the coke fountains out the side as well as the top and it all adds to the effect!

This is what happens when you add the mentos to the coke

Fun, isn’t it, but I thought we could shake it up a little (pardon the pun) … so I added two seven year olds home from school with a temperature and needing a bit of a distraction…

The “R & D” Department

Then I gave them these… and asked them to come up with something fun!

The Props

And this is what they came up with…..(That’s two teddies tied to the front of the skate board!!)…

What do you think?  Not bad for two boys who had a temps of 38.5 an hour before….Oh the wonders of Calpol!

If you really want to scale things up you might get some inspiration from these guys (I love this video ;0)  )…
Coke and mentos powered car“.

So, do you want the bit of science behind the fun?...

Firstly, this is not thought to be a chemical reaction between the coke and the mentos.  It is most likely a physical reaction known as nucleation;  The coke is full of carbon dioxide gas, to give it it’s fizz;  the mentos are full of tiny little craters on the surface of the sweet, the carbon dioxide gas is able to form bubbles in these “craters” producings thousands of tiny bubbles all at once; these bubbles of gas are under a lot of pressure within the bottle of coke and so come shooting out the mouth of the bottle.  If anyone knows anything about Newton and his laws they will know that every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction (Newton’s third law of motion)… so the coke comes shooting out of the bottle in one direction and the force of this propels the skate board forward in the opposite direction.  PRETTY COOL!

Now it’s your turn to go off and try it out, if you come up with any of your own ideas and experiments I’d love to hear about it!


Thought of the day – " A questioning mind"

Thought of the day – " A questioning mind"

From the moment I get up in the morning the questions start rolling…. the three year old is going through a “what happens if” phase with an alarmingly gruesome theme these days; “Mammy, what will happen if your eye ball falls out and you stand on it and squash it?” is just one of his recent gems!  Before I have even had my morning cuppa I have attempted to answer a fair whack of questions.  The process continues throughout the day… from the back of the car, while we do the shopping, during meals and all the way through to bedtime… he can literally fall asleep mid question!

But why the incessant bombardment of questions?…

"Mammy, what will happen if...?"
“Mammy, what will happen if…?”

There are over 100 billion cells in the brain of a newborn child.  These cells need to start forming networks and connections with each other or else they will be “deleted” by the body in favour of more active cells .  It is the child’s interaction with its surroundings and its social contact that greatly influence the amount of connections made within its brain.

The brain of a three year old is two times more active than that of an adult!


By the age of three the child is often actively developing its ability to think and question what is happening around it in every aspect of life!  This is when the real deluge of questions come! This phase of heightened questioning supposedly lasts until the child is about ten years old.  So I am blessed with three children in this busy questioning stage of life.
As exhausting as it may be, listening, answering and encouraging these questions is highly important to the development of the child’s brain…. it literally “Lights it up!”  I think it is equally important to promote this questioning so that the child develops it as a habit they carry with them right through life!  If you were to think of some of the scientific greats, who pops into mind…. Da Vinci, Darwin, Einstein, Newton maybe?  Now would you say their work has left an impression on you because of their ability to learn or their sensation for questioning?  Newton, at the age of 19 abandoned the norms of college learning and instead set himself a list of 15 questions that he explored for the rest of his life!
Questioning Minds - Einstein, Newton, Darwin and DaVinci.... notic any common feature? (hint - the hair)
Questioning Minds – Einstein, Newton, Darwin and DaVinci…. notic any common feature? (hint – the hair)
Interestingly, I find that my own ability to question life has been greatly enhanced since my children were born.  I consider this a blessing and hope to continue learning how to question as they do.  However, there are times, I must admit, when the answer to one of their questions is “just because!”… well I am only human!

…. just a thought!

Peacock spider

Peacock spider

Week 15th – 22nd April

Did you guess this weeks CAN YOU NAME THIS CREATURE?  It is a PEACOCK SPIDER!!  Well done to Michael from Nature Learn and to Sonja Koprek for getting it right!

photo credit: Jurgen Otto via photopin cc
photo credit: Jurgen Otto via photopin cc

What is not apparent from the photo above is the size of these spiders, they are tiny, growing to no bigger than 5mm!  It is only the males that have this splendidly coloured stomach flap… the females are brown in colour with black markings.  When the male spots a female it raises it’s legs and flashes it’s brightly coloured flap in an unusual dance like sequence…. a spectacular mating ritual!There are about 20 know species of peacock spiders but less than half of them have been formally identified!  This one is the Coastal Peacock spider (Maratus specious).  Peacock spiders are found in south eastern Australia they are also know as gliding spiders and are a type of jumping spider.

Fun Friday – the bouncy egg experiment!

Fun Friday – the bouncy egg experiment!

With all the excitement of the Easter bunny we forgot about our last egg- experiment…”the bouncy egg” so I thought it might be a fun one to start off this new blog spot… “Fun Friday”, where I will share a new experiment for you to try!

So firstly, this is how we set up the experiment….

We left the eggs in the vinegar for two days and then removed them and gently washed them in a bowl of water … unfortunately,  when I was washing the egg from the plain vinegar experiment, I burst it… Ooops!

No harm done as we substituted the other just to show you how the “bouncy” bit worked!


The result…(we had a very cautious scientist in the video but you can get quite a bounce out of the egg!)



What has happened to the shell?

The vinegar is an acid (acetic acid); it reacts with the calcium in the egg shell (calcium carbonate) and breaks it down, producing a gas as it does so.  You may have observed the gas as bubbles being formed, during the experiment.  Effectively the vinegar (acid) eats away at the egg shell until it is all gone.


The fluorescent bit

Then for a bit more fun I turned on a UV light!  Ok, I know, most of you don’t have one of these lying around at home but as I’m a Mad Scientist I do ;0) …and I was curious to know what would happen if we left it sit in fluorescent vinegar.

The results were Fab!! A fluorescent egg… check it out!  (I hope you can hear me in the video, sound is a bit low!)


So there you go, it worked better than I expected… the egg is completely fluorescent…. and bouncy, just for that extra bit of fun!


What is fluorescence?

In case you are wondering “WHAT IS FLUORESCENCE?”….let me explain… it is the emission of light from an object after it has absorbed light (or electromagnetic energy)…. usually the light absorbed has a short wavelength (in this case the UV light) and the light emitted has a longer wavelength.

When I shone the UV light onto the egg it “glowed”, even in daylight it  looks bright – just like a fluorescent pen!

The flourescent egg in daylight!
The fluorescent egg in daylight!