How do snails get their shells and can slime mend a broken heart?

How do snails get their shells and can slime mend a broken heart?

It is all about snails here this week; snail questions, bad weather and midterm break. I was planning a written blog in response to all his questions, but, spirits were high this morning (in the kids, not me!) so writing time was limited. Instead we went for something a little different and if you like it, I think it could become a regular feature.

We made a little video, the snail questioning one and I. So go get a cuppa and settle down for five minutes with us… it’s time to TAKE FIVE!

So what do you think? We hope you liked it, let us know what you think in the comments below and, if you have a question you’d like covered in a TAKE FIVE video, let us know!

Have a great weekend!

Why do we lie?

Why do we lie?

I watched a great documentary on Netflix* recently all about lying… it is called Dis(honesty): the truth about lies and I would highly recommend it.

It really got me thinking about lying, why do we do it, what would happen if we don’t and is it a uniquely human activity?

First off, we all do it! If you are shaking your head in disagreement, then you’ve just lied too! Sometimes we do it for good reasons, sometimes just to save our skin, but we all lie from time to time. So why do we do it and is it a purely human activity?


We lie for a number of reasons, it may be a little white lie to make someone feel better or it might be a big lie for our own gain, or to save our skin!

Many of the lies we tell are to present a better side of ourselves; make ourselves appear a little nicer, a little smarter, or a little more popular. We don’t often even recognise these lies, we don’t realise we are doing it – we are lying to ourselves!

On a base level, we probably lie because evolution has shown us that it works to our benefit and the benefit of society. As our social connections have developed, so too have our abilities at lying. It is actually a valuable tool to have and brings with it many advantages. Lying is a sign of intelligence and is considered a complex cognitive skill.

Different types of lies and liars

There are different types of lies and different categories of liars! There are the little white lies that we all do, usually for social acceptance or compliance. There are lies of exaggeration, usually of little harm either;  and then there are the bigger lies that are often more serious and come with a lot more consequences if found out.

There are also different types of liars. We are all contributors to the pool of common-or-garden, everyday liars, but things get more serious when we look at the compulsive or pathological liar.

Compulsive liars tell lies as the norm, it is an automatic reflex and it takes a lot less effort for them than telling the truth does. Pathological liars tend to take it one step further; they lie for their own gain, with little thought to the consequences of their lies, for either themselves or others.

What happens in our brains when we lie?

Lying is a complex process; in order to do it our brains must focus on two opposing pieces of information at the same time: the truth and the lie. If we want to process or deliver a lie we need to believe that it could be true. The brain has to work much harder to lie than to tell the truth. Activity in the prefrontal cortex (at the front of the brain) has been shown to increase when a person lies. This is the part of the brain involved in decision making, cognitive planning and problem solving.

Usually when we tell a small lie, for personal gain, we feel bad. These emotions of regret and guilt are controlled by a part of the brain called the amygdala. However, the more we lie, the more we desensitize the amygdala so that it produces less of these bad feelings.

Studies on the brains of pathological liars show that they have about 25% more white matter in their prefrontal cortex, suggesting more connections between different parts of the brain. However, they also have about 14% less grey matter, the part that can help rationalise the potential consequences of each lie told.

No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar- Abraham Lincoln

Do other animals lie?

Yes some do. One famous example that my children love to hear about is of Koko the gorilla. Koko is renowned for her sign language abilities, with an impressive vocabulary of more than 1000 words. Koko has a pet kitten that has come in handy for more than just cuddles and companionship. One day Koko tore a sink from a wall in her enclosure. When her carers returned and asked what happened, Koko signed ‘the cat did it!’

Koko The Gorilla2

When do we start lying and how often do we do it?

Some scientists believe that we begin the act of deception as young as six months old! This usually starts as fake crying, or smiling, to get attention. At that age we don’t do a very good job (although it is probably quite cute and amusing to watch) and we likely do not do it as a conscious lie.

By the age of two however, we have put in a little more practice and can deliver an outright lie with more commitment and conviction.

Adults are so good at lying that they can often lie even to themselves; on average, adults lie about 10 times a day and we can throw about three lies into a short conversation with a stranger, without even knowing we are doing it.

Are there ways to spot a lie?

Some of us are better liars than others and there is no detection system, including lie detectors, that work for all. However, many of us amateurs give away some tell-tale signs when we are lying, such as…

  • We make and keep direct eye contact (contrary to common held belief)
  • We keep our bodies very still, but we may…
  • jerk our heads a lot
  • We give more information than is necessary
  • We touch or cover our mouths with our fingers
  • We breathe at a more rapid rate
  • We cover vulnerable parts of our bodies, such as the throat, head or chest

Interestingly, we are better at lying when we lie for altruistic reasons than for our own good and these lies are more difficult to detect.

So that is the low-down on lying, and not a word of a lie 😉

Have you any facts or stories to add? I’d love to hear them, just leave them in the comments below.

*Disclosure: As a member of the Netflix Stream Team I have received a years subscription to Netflix, free of charge, and an Apple TV, for streaming purposes. As part of Netflix Stream Team I will be posting monthly updates on what we are watching and what is on offer.  All opinions expressed will be my own.

4 Valentine experiments 4 your loved ones

4 Valentine experiments 4 your loved ones

I must admit that I am not a big fan of the commercial side of Valentine’s day but I have no problem with the idea of telling someone you love just how much they mean to you. When I get to couple the sentiment with some science experimenting then my heart really does skip a beat. Check out these cool valentine science experiments that would make some pretty unique (and educational) gifts for the someone special in your life.

  1. Say it with flowers

Who doesn’t love flowers on Valentine’s Day? With a little bit of science you can add an extra twist to this staple gift. Try these CHROMATOGRAPHY flowers…

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Some paper (we used regular white A4 paper here)
  • A selection of water soluble coloured markers
  • A pencil
  • A ruler
  • A paperclip
  • A glass or beaker
  • A jug of water
  • Some wire or pipe cleaners

Chromatography flower 1

What to do:

Fold your paper in half down the long side and then open it out again.

Using your ruler and a pencil, draw a line either side of the crease, the line should be about 2 cm from the crease on each side.

Choose the colours you would like to use and place large dots of each colour along these lines, leaving about 1 – 2 cm between each dot. Alternate the colours in whatever way you wish.

Chromatography flower 2

Once you have that done it is time to fold your paper. You need to fold along the shorter side, start at one end and fold the edge of the paper in about 2 cm. Turn over the paper and fold back another 2 cm. Turn over the paper and keep going like this until you reach the other side of the paper.

Chromatography flower 3

Keeping the paper folded, fold it in half and secure with a paperclip.

Trim the tops of the folded paper on each side. I used a serrated scissors but you could just cut into a pointy shape or round off the ends, whatever you prefer.

Pour about 1 cm of water into your glass (or beaker) and place the folded paper into the glass, as in the photo below. You want the end of the paper to sit into the water below the dots of markers, you don’t want the water level to reach the dots though.

Chromatography flower 5

Now you just need to wait a while. You should see the water creeping up the paper, spreading out the marker ink as it moves upwards. Once the water reaches the top of the paper you can remove it from the beaker and place it somewhere warm to dry.

Replace the paper clip with a strip of wire or a pipe cleaner, and twist it to close. This will be the stem of the flower.

Once dry it is time to open out the paper, into a flower shape, and see what a colourful CHROMATOGRAPHY flower you have made. You can try different types of paper, blotting paper works really well.

Chromatography flower 6

The science bit:

This experiment used a scientific technique called CHROMATOGRAPHY to separating different chemicals; in this case the chemicals are the inks in coloured markers. As the water creeps up the paper (by a process called CAPILLARY ACTION) it dissolves the different inks that make up the colour. These inks separate out as the water moves upwards and you get lovely streaks of colours through the paper.

If you prefer real flowers to artificial ones you can still use a bit of science to add some extra colour; Here are two of our favourites (click the images below to find out how to make these beautiful coloured flowers while learning all about TRANSPIRATION!).


Make a multicoloured Rose (click the image to find out more).


Or try making a rainbow bunch of flowers, click the image above to go to the blog post.

2. You make my heart spin

I’ll admit these do take an extra bit of time and effort but they are really worth it and give a nice WOW factor. Your Valentine will be amazed with a gift like this… left wondering just how you did it. This experiment requires ADULT SUPERVISION!

Here is what you’ll need:

  • Some copper wire
  • a pliers
  • a strong scissors or wire cutter
  • A battery (AA work just fine), I used a D battery here
  • A neodymium magnet (these are strong, rare earth magnets, often found in electrical appliances but can be purchased in many specialised shops)
  • Some items to decorate (optional)

Spinning heart

And this is what you do:

You can start by decorating your battery with love hearts or similar stationary if you wish.

Place the neodymium magnet on the base (minus side) of the battery, it will ‘stick’ to the metal.

Now for the tricky bit, you need to make a connection from the positive end of the battery, to the other side (the magnets in this case) to complete an electrical circuit. You can see from the photo and video below that I shaped one end of the copper wire into a heart shape with a little ‘stalk’ to sit on the top of the battery. I then wrapped the remaining wire around the battery and finally, I wrapped the end of the wire around the neodymium magnet (in this case I used two small neodymium magnets, one on top of the other). You will know if the circuit is complete as the battery and copper wire will heat slightly. However in order to get the wire to start to move you need to ensure that the wire is balanced correctly and is not wrapped too tightly around the battery or magnet. It will take a bit of patience and ‘tweaking’ to get this right, but, hopefully you will be rewarded by a lovely spinning heart 🙂

Want to know how it works?

Congratulations, you have just created a HOMOPOLAR MOTOR and, by combining an elctrical current and a magnetic field, working in specific directions, you have generated a force called LORENTZ force, that makes the copper wire move.

To put it as simply as possible, the copper wire connect to the positive and negative ends of the battery, completing a circuit and creating an electrical current that runs through the wire. The neodymium magnet generated a permanent magnetic field. In this set up the electrical current is perpendicular to the magnetic field and this generated teh Lorentz Force which acts on the copper wire, making it move!

NOTE: This experiment requires adult supervision! An electrical current can generate heat and you need to be careful that nothing gets too hot.

3. Gooey with love

Slime may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a Valentine’s day gift but this one is the prettiest slime I’ve ever made, and it has love hearts and sparkles in it, so what’s not to love. Plus… a few minutes playing with this stuff is time well spent, it is actually a great stress busting exercise, try it and see!

What you will need:

  • A bottle of clear glue
  • A jug of water
  • Bowl and something to stir with
  • A cup or small plastic cup or a second bowl
  • Borax powder
  • glitter and mini hearts (or any decoration of your choice)

Valentine's slime 1

Here is what you do:

Pour a small amount of clear glue into your bowl (we used a 10 ml at a guess). Add the little of the love hearts and glitter, just a small sprinkle of each is fine.

Give all that a good mix and then leave to the side while you make up the borax solution

In the cup (or jug) make up your borax solution; you want to dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of borax powder in a cup measure of warm water (about 240 ml); Stir until fully dissolved.

Still the glue constantly and add a very small amount of borax solution. Keep stirring all the time. As soon as the glue is no longer sticky you can pick it up in your hands and start kneading and molding it, for a few minutes.

I will admit that I had a lot of trouble coming up with a good recipe here. I am used to working with white glue (PVA) which makes great slime. The clear glue can get very rubbery slime which breaks easily. So the trick is to use small amounts and add as little borax solution as possible. Also, once the slime forms at all, take it into your hands and knead it.

You can even roll it into a ball and see how bouncy it is…

I know that borax is not easy to buy in Ireland at the moment so I will test out some alternatives and hopefully have a post next week with some borax-powder-free slime recipes!

The science bit:

Congratulation… you have just made a polymer!! In simple terms a polymer is a substance made up of lots of molecules arranged in long chains.  If you imagine that the glue is like cooked spaghetti, it slides and slips around the place quite easily.  When we add the borax to the glue it causes some of the molecules in the glue to stick together making the glue more rubbery and less liquid!  Imagine if you took those strands of spaghetti and tied them together in places, the strands would not be able to slip and slide around nearly as much! The borax and glue mixture is just like your knotted spaghetti!

4. I Lava you

This is like two science experiments in one. It is an adaptation of this Ocean in a bottle experiment.

Here is what you will need:

  • A clear bottle (plastic is safest) with lid
  • A funnel
  • A bottle of cooking oil (we used vegetable oil)
  • A jug of water
  • Red (or pink) food colouring
  • Glitter and plastic miniature hearts
  • (Antacid tablets, such as Alkaseltzer – and adult supervision!)

What you do:

First add a few drop of red food colouring to the water until you are happy with the colour.

Add about half a teaspoon of glitter and half a teaspoon of miniature hearts to the water and mix well.

Using the funnel, pour the coloured water into the bottle, filling it to about a third full.

Fill the rest of the bottle with oil (using the funnel again) and replace the lid. You will notice that the oil and water remain as two separate layers.

Hold the bottle on its side and tilt it slowly back and forwards, you will see the water moves like a coloured wave, it gives a lovely effect.

If you want to turn this into a Valentine’s lava lamp just stand the bottle back up again, open the lid and pop in half an antacid tablet (like Alkaseltzer) NOTE: these tablets are not for eating and this part must be supervised by an adult.

Pop the lid back on (don’t seal it fully though as gas will build up in the bottle) and watch your lovely lava lamp.

When it stops you can pop in another piece of Alkaseltzer and watch all over again.

The science bit:

This is a good experiment to explain density. The oil is less dense than the water so it will sit on top of the water, creating two separate layers. The layer of oil keeps the water contained within the bottom half of the water and makes the movement of the water look like waves where the two liquids meet.

When we add the Alkaseltzer tablets to the bottle we get a chemical reaction. The tablets contain an acid and a base (or alkali) in powder form. When the tablet sinks down to the water layer the tablet dissolves and the acid and base get to mix together, forming carbon dioxide gas. The gas forms bubbles, and is lighter than the water and oil so the bubbles float to the top of the bottle where they burst, leaving just a drop of water, which is more dense than the oil so it falls back down. This cycle gives a lovely lava lamp effect of bubbles and blobs rising and falling through the oil layer. We are loving this one in our house at the moment. The glitter and love hearts add a really lovely touch to the whole thing.

So there you have it… five of our favourite Valentine experiments, I’m sure you’ll agree, as well as being educational, these would make great gifts for someone you love! We hope you get as much fun out of making these as we did and remember to let us know how you get on!



If you’d like to know a little about the Science of Love, check out this post




What would happen if we had no moon?

What would happen if we had no moon?

What would happen if we had no moon?

That was a questioned posed by one of my kids this week. It lead to lots of discussion and interesting debate until finally we were talking about werewolves!


 photo credit: kendoman26 Not Quite There! via photopin (license)

Firstly, lets consider how the Moon got there in the first place.

The Moon is approximately 4.51 billion years, about 60 million years younger than the Solar System. It formed from the debris from created by a massive collision between a large asteroid (about the size of Mars) and the early Earth.

Originally the Moon spun on its own axis much more quickly than it does today, as did the Earth. However, over time the Moon’s spin slowed down. This is because the gravitational pull of the Earth on the Moon distorted its shape, making it bulge in the centre and ultimately (it took an estimated 1,000 years) it slowed it down until the speed at which is spun on its axis matched the rate at which it orbited the Earth. This is why we only see one face of the Moon. If you still find that hard to understand test it out with two balls or check out this great video by Minute Earth.

Almost all moons in our solar system spin on their axis at the same speed as they orbit their planet.

Of course the gravitational forces between the Earth and the Moon are not one sided, the Moon also has a gravitational pull on the Earth and this causes some obvious effects here on Earth, like the tides in our oceans and seas.

Not that we know how it got there, let’s consider what would happen if it suddenly disappeared.

  1. Darker nights

    Although the night sky would still be lit by so many stars in our galaxy we would definitely notice it darker without the Moon. The full Moon on a cloudless night provides enough light for us to navigate by, in fact we can nearly read by its light. On these nights the Moon is about 1500 times brighter than Venus, the next brightest object in our night sky.

  2. Shorter days

    Without the stabilizing effect of the Moon, the Earth would begin to spin more quickly. It is estimated that a day on Earth would eventually only be about eight hours long, meaning there would be about three times more days (1095) in a year. However, this effect would happen very, very slowly. How long?

  3. Less extremes between high and low tides

    The gravitational forces exerted by the Moon causes tides to rise and fall in our seas and ocean, this is called lunar tides. Without the Moon we would see a big drop in the difference between high tide levels and low tide levels. There would still be some tidal difference (as the Sun exerts a gravitational force too – solar tides) but it would be a lot less, maybe as much as 40% less than what we have now.

  4. A more extreme climate

    As mentioned above, the Earth would spin more quickly on its axis without the Moon around to slow it down. The Earth is also tilted slightly on its axis as it spins. At the moment the Earth is at a tilt of 23.5 degrees on its axis. The Earth’s tilt can wobble slightly, but, due to the Moon, it never stays between 22 and 26 degrees. Without the stabilising forces of the Moon the Earth would wobble a lot more as it spins. This would lead to changes in our seasons. Sometimes it would tilt too far, resulting in extremes of temperatures and seasons. Sometimes there would be no tilt at all, meaning no seasons at all. Whatever way it goes, we would certainly find some extremes in our weather conditions if we had no Moon.

  5. No solar eclipse

    A solar eclipse happens when the Moon gets between the Sun and the Earth, casting a shadow over the Earth. There are different types of solar eclipses, but a complete solar eclipse is quite a spectacular show, the entire sun can be blocked briefly by a full moon, causing complete darkness from the correct viewpoint on Earth. Without a Moon, these spectacles (which can occur somewhere on earth every 18 months or so) would cease! Of course  lunar eclipses would no longer exist either; A lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth and Moon align with the Earth in the middle, casting a complete shadow on the Moon and preventing any of the Sun’s light from reflecting off it .

  6. No Werewolves!

    We are back to the werewolves. My kids put up a good argument that without a moon Were-people could not change into Werewolves, and they therefore wouldn’t exist. I know better than to argue with that one!


If your questions expand beyond the Moon why not check out my Appliance of Science column in today’s Irish Examiner where I answer questions on the Universe and beyond.

Mystery Creature February 2017

Mystery Creature February 2017

This month’s Mystery Creature is a little different; The picture below shows what the creature can build, can you tell what the creature is?


Image credit: Phil Torres

I’ll admit that this one is particularly tough so here is a clue: there is a hint in the structure, it resembles a pre-historic monument that features in the creature’s name!

Have fun researching this one and remember to check back soon when I’ll post the answer with some pretty amazing facts about this creature.

Mystery Creature revealed – the Cassowary

Mystery Creature revealed – the Cassowary

How did you do with January’s Mystery Creature? It was a Cassowary, a Southern Cassowary to be exact. Did you guess it? I know that seven year-old Daniel from Singapore did, well done Daniel!

Here are ten interesting facts about the Cassowary:


Image Credit: Magdalene-b

Ten facts about the Cassowary

  1. Cassowaries are large flightless birds.

    There are three species currently recognised, the Southern Cassowary, the Northern Cassowary and the dwarf Cassowary. They are all considered endangered species. The Southern Cassowary is the largest, growing up to 1.6 M in height, making them the third largest bird on Earth (behind the Ostrich and the Emu).

  2. Cassowaries live in New Guinea and surrounding Islands as well as north-eastern Australia.

    The Southern Cassowaries are the only ones found in Australia.

  3. They are shy creatures by nature, usually keeping to the dense habitat of tropical forests.

    They may also be found in shrub lands, grasslands and swaps on the outskirts of dense forests. They are easily spooked and tend to run away if approached.

  4.  Cassawaries are considered very dangerous birds.

    Although shy by nature, if cornered, these birds can attack with serious consequences. They have a very powerful kick and a large, spiked nail on their middle toe can cut a deep gash in a victim.

  5. They can run very fast;

    Cassowaries can run at speeds of up to 50 km/hr.

  6. Cassowaries are omnivores.

    They prefer a dies of fruit and seeds but will also eat small vertebrates and invertebrates. They are very important seed distributors within the rain forest.

  7. The female Cassowary is stronger and larger than her male counterpart.

    Unlike with many other bird species, the female is also equally as colourful.

  8. Parenting is a father-only affair.

    Once the female lays her eggs she disappears, leaving the male to sit on the eggs and rear the young. The egg incubation period lasts for about 50 days and the male can loose a third of his body weight during this time. Juvenile cassowaries have a dull brown plumage.

  9. Cassowaries can live for decades.

    In captivity they will often live up to 50 years.

  10. They have a bizzare structure on top of their heads, called a casque.

    This is a hollow horn like crest and the purpose of this appendage is unknown. There are many theories though as to its role or function; something it is serves a protective function; cassowaries tend to run through the forests at great speed with their head down, perhaps the casque acts as a type of helmet if they accidentally hit a tree. Or they may protect from large falling seeds as the cassowaries often hang out under trees waiting to eat falling fruit. The casque may serve as a sexual ornament, to attract a mate. It make be a handy tool for digging for seeds or other foods. Perhaps the most likely role for this unusual appendage is a resonating device, helping in some way to amplify the low frequency sounds made by the birds.


Southern Cassowary - Image Credit: Ronnie23

I think these amazing creatures serve as a great visual reminder to the fact that birds are living decedents of dinosaurs.

Check back next Monday for a new Mystery Creature!

Diary of a science communicator – a week in the life

Diary of a science communicator – a week in the life

One of the things I love about what I do is the diversity. There are plenty of weeks with lots of slogging, behind the scenes-type efforts that can really challenge my commitment and resolve to keep going and then there are weeks like last week, which went something like this…


My regular Appliance of Science column was in the Irish Examiner; each column answers a different science question, last Monday the question was “Does chicken soup really cure a cold?” The question was posed by my brother in law over Christmas dinner, as we considered the fate of the leftover turkey. Although a bit of an old wives tale there are a number of scientific studies that provide evidence to the fact that chicken soup certainly has some cold busting potential. You can read the full column here.

chicken soup


School runs are usually predictable and routine but Tuesday’s came with an unexpected phone call. The producer of Newstalk’s High Noon had read Monday’s Appliance of Science column and proposed a slot on national radio talking about which old wives tales really do work on a cold and which are pure fiction.


I headed to Dublin for a stop off at Newstalk HQ and a chat with George Hook about which old wives tales work and which don’t. Wet socks and onions under your bed sheets… can they really cure a cold? Have a listen if you want to find out if your favourite cure was mentioned and what science has to say about it (my piece starts about a quarter of the way into the podcast).


The BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition was on in the RDS and this year I was there too, with lots of hands on science experiments at the European Union Stall. The atmosphere was fantastic and it was great to see so many young people with such an interest in science and technology.


I had one experiment with me that everyone wanted to try… making slime. Here is the recipe in case you want to have a go yourself!

Monster slime


Back home to my family, to be greeted by lots of welcome hugs, plenty of catching up and then back to preparing school lunches!

Mystery Creature – January 2017

Mystery Creature – January 2017

A new year and a good time to renew the Mystery Creature spot; This year I think I will do just one a month, posting the animal at the start of the month and revealing what the animal was and some facts about it, at the end of that week. As always, if you think you know what it might be, leave a comment, share some facts or ask some questions!

First up is this fairly prehistoric looking bird, do you know what it is?


photo credit: uccsbiology Cassowary via photopin (license)

[Edit]… and here is the post that reveals what the mystery creature is along with some interesting facts about it.

16 from ’16 – a retrospective look at blogging through 2016

16 from ’16 – a retrospective look at blogging through 2016

2016 was certainly an interesting year, if I had to sum it up in one word I would say CHANGE! I certainly had lots of changes on both personal and work levels, but as I look back I realise they were all positive changes. Some still in progress. It was only when I reviewed my year in blogging, to join Where Wishes Come From blog linky, that I realised just how much has happened in this year. That is the great thing about a blog… it acts as a type of record or journal, documenting things that could otherwise so easily be forgotten.

So here is what 2016 looked like for Dr. How’s Science Wows…



The most popular post on the blog from 2016 is a personal favourite, How high do birds fly? This infographic brought Dr. Simple to a new level, when his twin sister was introduced. I really like the end result. It always surprises me how many people search this question on a daily bases, I hope the post is of some help to them.




It is really hard to pick a favourite post, it is almost like picking a favourite child. I love writing posts based on a question I have been asked and I particularly enjoyed this one What would happen if the Earth’s gravity suddenly disappeared? It was a question asked by my son and it got the whole family involved in what they thought would happen!



I tried a few different ways to share experiments this year, and I’ll cover that a bit later, but one of my favourite experiments on the blog this year was this one… Can water go uphill? It was great fun to set up and the resulting colours were so nice that I have to admit, we kept it on the counter for days as it was too nice to trow out. Definitely a cheery experiment for a dull day!




I tried a few new things out this year, some of which used FaceBook Live. I have to admit that some of the science kits out there drive me nuts! I have seen far to many that are little more than a box and a poorly written booklet, nearly all the materials having to be supplied by the poor person who has already spent money on the ‘kit’. I won’t go any further with that rant today, but, on the plus side, this prompted me to share a series of experiments that you can do at home using just a plastic bottle.

I used FB live to share a different bottle experiment each day, for ten days and then put them all together as my TEN SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS YOU CAN DO WITH A PLASTIC BOTTLE series; you can view them here and here. The videos are not very pretty or polished but I am proud of the fact that I did show how you can literally do ten experiments with a plastic bottle and I got some really great feedback from people who tried the experiments.



My titles are often pretty basic and self explanatory but I like this one, as it is a little different… What do Forrest Gump, horses and music have in common? It would intrigue me enough to want to click through and find out. (Go on, you know you want to!)

Horse at stable door



I have always wanted to do a children’s science magazine. I spent a lot of time looking into it in 2016. The project has since taken on a somewhat different direction but we’ll see what comes of it all. However, I did put together a simple, free, on-line mini-magazine here on the blog and I absolutely loved the experience! It is so lovely to have this space to create and test and experiment and, looking back over 2016, that seems to be exactly what I was doing.



You may have noticed that I have a new column with the Irish Examiner, called the Appliance of Science. Each column answers a question that I have been asked. I am really enjoying the column and exploring all the fantastic questions I have been sent. If I had to pick a favourite it would be my very first… Do Pigs Dream?

I always love receiving your questions so please keep them coming!



It was lovely to look back over all the photos I have shared, here, and on social media during 2016. There are so many favourites but this one in particular makes me smile.


It is exactly why I started Science Wows in the first place and the kind of science I most like to see. This  photo shows an impromptu bubble science session at the kitchen table. My youngest loves to go in to my science supplies and pick something to ‘experiment’ with. This day it was bubbles and they had free reign. I think you can see the interest and exploration written all over their faces. The best way to learn!



I was delighted to attend 2016’s Inspirefest. It certainly lived up to its name, I am still talking about the event and looking forward to attending again this year. If you are thinking about it at all, I would highly recommend it. Here is a little of what 2016’s event offered.



I was delighted to make it to the finals in the Irish Blog Awards (Science and Education Category) and had a fantastic time at the Circus themed Awards in September. My best blogging moment came however on 28th September when I won the Best Education Blog category in the Web Awards! All parents out there know how life with kids never goes as planned; so instead of hearing the news from the Award ceremony itself, I found out via twitter while putting a sick child to bed! Still, the celebratory ‘happy dance’ that the whole family did in the hall when I let out a shriek of delight makes a particularly wonderful memory for me for 2016.




I love doing posts with infographics and although I didn’t do as many I would have like in 2016, I still did a good few. Perhaps my favourite is this one… Do bugs fart? I created this infographic while my kids played outside this Summer and I heard their question come through the open door. True story! It is a simple, quick post but there are some cool facts included. And again, it surprises me how this too seems to be a common question for google! I guess we all really need to know!


Regular readers will know that I often do a series called ‘Mystery Creature’ where I post a photo of an unusual creature and readers guess what it is. At the end of the week I post the answer and a bit of information about the animal.

I have featured some amazing creatures over the years but perhaps my favourite from 2016 is this one… the Epaulette Shark, a shark that can actually walk on land!



We also have a fondness for frogs in this house. These little creatures are absolutely amazing! Although this post deals with a type of animal, rather than just one frog, it is another favourite in the animal section. These fifteen frog facts may just blow your mind!



Looking back over 2016 I am delighted that Dr. How’s Science Wows has featured many times in the media, in print, radio and TV and for that I am very grateful. It was nice to feature on the Nuacht in November as I brought my Science of Sound Workshop around schools in Galway for the Science and Technology Festival.

It also made me smile as I was quoted in an article all about the Science of Love for Valentines day!

Irish Mail on Sunday

But my favourite media mention this year was this one… Meadhbh Mc Grath highlighted another side of blogging in the Irish Independent Magazine in November and I was delighted to be included (with a lovely photo with my youngest as we play with slime!).



14.  A HIGHLIGHT OF 2016

You could argue that this one belongs in 2015 as that is when I did the work for it; I am talking about the children’s science programme ‘Is Eolaí Mé’. I was delighted to work on this 22 part series for Irish television, working with the amazing team at Fibín Media. As scriptwriter and consultant I got to be part of many elements of the show which was just a fantastic experiment. And finally, in September 2016 I got to sit down with my family and watch the programme on Cúla 4, TG4 for the very first time. I really loved every part of the experience and I honestly feel this is a great resource for school, educators and families. You can check out the full series herehere.


I definitely don’t think I had a common theme this year. I did try a lot of new things and there was a lot of change for Dr. How’s Science Wows so I guess I would use two words… EXPERIMENTATION and CHANGE!



In a year of flux and change the blog has been a constant. It is always a place to come back to when I am unsure of the next step. Over the years it has allowed me to develop my writing and expand my knowledge but, last year in particular, it allowed me expand into new, uncharted waters, while still providing a safe harbour when I needed it. Most of all, as I realised when I first started to write this post, it has provided me with a place to document and busy and adventurous year.

Here is hoping 2017 will allow some of these new adventures to move to the next level!

Happy New Year and thanks for reading, engaging, supporting and following along with the journey!


This post is part of a wonderful linky set up by Where Wishes come from. Click the badge below to check out her beautiful blog and all the other posts sharing their 16 from ’16.


Our Netflix favourites to see out one year and start the next

Our Netflix favourites to see out one year and start the next

Netflix, you surpassed yourself in 2016! If you haven’t seen these already, we highly recommend them!

For the Adults

Stranger Things

If you haven’t seen it, why not? Our favourite viewing of 2016. It took every restraint not to binge watch but it was a delight to sit down to every night. The eight part series follows the adventures of a group of children, trying to find their missing friend, and the mysterious events and people they encounter along the way. A fantastic supernatural tale not to be missed. If you haven’t seen it then change that quick, before the year is over!


Sense 8

This was the kind of series we could really get into and it was a really good seasonal treat to find that Netflix released a two hour Sense 8 special that would make great viewing for a cozy New Year night in, if you have watched the series so far then see what your favourite characters get up to as the New Year approached.

“The journey continues as these eight singular hearts and minds weave in and out of each other’s lives finding deeper connections, learning darker, more desperate secrets about one another and struggling to identify with more than just oneself.”

The OA

This just seemed to appear out of nowhere just in time for Christmas. A scifi, supernatural series that begins with the return of the main character, Prairie, who had been missing for seven years. Where was she, what happened to her, and most of all, how can she suddenly see when she was blind when she disappeared. Another Netflix gem, we loved it! Go watch it quickly so you can join in all the chat and buzz around this great series.


I think I would watch anything with Morgan Freeman in it, but add in Scarlett Johansson and written and directed by Luc Besson and the movie is bound to entertain. An action, scifi movie that we have watched twice already.

“A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.”

The Siege of Jadotville

Another great movie. I was a bit unsure about this one as I don’t like war movies but the action, drama and story of this made me very glad I watched it. The  movie tells the true story of how 150 Irish men held out against 3000 mercenaries. Another one we highly recommend (once you can tune out some dodgy Irish accents!).


For the children:

Troll Hunters

A new series that the children are loving. It can be hard to find something that appeals to all three at once but this animation really seems to fit the bill.

King Julien (Series 4)

Another series of King Julien was released and had all the humour and entertainment of the previous series. I have to admit, I tend to find myself sitting with the kids and watching it too.

Horrible Histories

My children have watched these over and over again. They can quote them at this stage but that seems to add to the charm. A fantastic way to get your children interested in history!

Into the Woods

An imaginative amalgamation of a number of different fairy tales all rolled into one, with plenty of singing added in for good measure. My 12 year old loved it!


Annie (The 2014 version)

We watched the new version of Annie over the Christmas and loved it. Some of the adults preferred the original but it is still well work watching. The story follows a very story line as the original Annie along with many of the favourite musical pieces.

The Netflix Kids Count Down for New Year

countdowntrollhunterThis is one of the great things about Netflix, their New Year count down for the kids, so they can see in the New Year and still make it to bed before midnight. There are a large amount of kids favourites to choose from this year. The choice includes project MC, Beat Bugs, Puffin Rock, Fuller House, Chasing Cameron and Skylanders. All good choices although I think in our house it is a toss up between King Julien and Troll Hunters.


Whatever you will be doing, or watching as the 2016 comes to a close, we wish you a very Happy, Healthy and Science filled 2017!

Disclosure: As a member of the Netflix Stream Team I have received a years subscription to Netflix, free of charge, and an Apple TV, for streaming purposes. As part of Netflix Stream Team I will be posting monthly updates on what we are watching and what is on offer.  All opinions expressed will be my own.