Alice shares how she’s always on the lookout for phenomena that excite her

For the #makingitallaboutmytopic challenge, Alice shares how she’s always on the lookout for phenomena that excite her:

“Every year during the last week of June, there‘s the Kiel Week. And on the sports field really close to my home, the balloons start and land and there’s a show five times during the week. Yesterday, I’ve been there for the first time and loved it!

But while watching the show, I noticed something I wanted to see all month: take a look at the sky behind the balloons! These noctilucent clouds are just beautiful. Funny enough they are not really clouds but ice crystals being highlighted by the setting sun in such an angle, that the sun has set a couple of hours before but is still shining on the ice crystals in the upper atmosphere of Earth. I was so excited about this phenomenon that I almost instantly had to talk to my friends who were there with me and just wanted to enjoy the show. I explained them how these clouds aren’t visible in daylight, as they are the highest and faintest of all clouds, located about 80km above the Earth.

I almost instantly had to think of this month’s #scicommchall. This is something I recently developed and that has not always been there. Looking out for phenomena that excite me and trying to explain them has especially come from my #experimentalfriday series and I enjoy this new look on the world a lot. I hope you do too.”

Making it all about your topic: Breathing!

Sinikka is one of the people who can easily relate to June’s #makingitallaboutmytopic challenge. She writes:

“We all know we need oxygen to breathe. Where does the oxygen come from? From the trees and plants around us, sure. But this is only half of the story (or, half of the oxygen, in that case). The other half comes from tiny little algae everywhere in the ocean. As the “trees of the sea”, they produce just as much oxygen by photosynthesis as  plants do on land. So remember: Every second breath you take is thanks to the tiny algae in the ocean!”

June’s #scicommchall: Making it all about your topic

Are you one of the people who manages to make everything about your topic? Every movie you watch, every dish you eat, every piece of jewellery you wear? Then the #makingitallaboutmytopic scicommchall is for you!

Tell us: How do you make ordinary things you come across in your daily life about the one very specific thing you are scientifically interested in? Give us an example that always baffles people who don’t know you well and that your friends and family send you references to because you have infected them with your bug already and they know that when you see x, you will absolutely think of y!

P.S.: As an example: for me, a trip to Berlin consists of sightseeing with a twist: Watching wave pattern in front of monuments! Like so: Bow waves of a duck and a ship in front of the German Parliament!

A really cool giveaway for scicomm: scientific bookmarks by Nena!

Nena came up with a super cute giveaway that serves a scicomm purpose (that was April’s scicommchall). She writes:

“Scientific Bookmaks helps you to find the most intresting topics in a reference book you need for your studies or you just read because its fun. Sometimes there are several places in a book you want to find again and so you always need bookmarks. And when there bookmarks, with some little information and nice pictures, you get to know some new species and facts. And for kids, they can sample the bookmarks of the different topics.”

Don’t you just love how she included where to punch the hole so you can add a tassel to the bookmark? What would you give away for your project?

Nena’s concept cartoon on fire salamanders

Nena came up with this really cool concept cartoon for March’s #scicommchall! She writes:

“Fire salamanders are animals full of legends. There are a lot of stories which tell about the naming about the beautiful amphibian. Some people though fire salamanders are not able to burn or they even are able to ignited a fire. Other people just believe they wake up if there is a fire going on or because of his cnspicious coloring. And again other people believed, they can delete  fire with their skin secretion. In fact, all these myth are a little bit the truth. Fire salamanders always come out of their hiding places if it is getting warm. And in former times, it just getting warm with fire. So there was a big connection between fire and the pop up of fire salamanders.”

Nena shows us the “Tree of Project”: How to become a good biologist!

Nena gave us quite a challenge yesterday: Coming up with a “Tree of Project”. Today she shows us how it’s done:

My Tree of Project – My Tree of getting a good Biologist


I have not a real PhD Project or something similar, because of that I want to show you my biggest Project, to become a good Biologist.
It was very early I learned to be fascinated about the nature around me. With my siblings and me, my parents often went into the black forest to go for a walk. There they told us a lot about animal tracks we saw or all the huge trees. I am sure there was more, but that is what I remember from this time. This was my impact to learn more about life, and so I decided to study biology. At the University there were four lecturers and a lot of good friends who make my decision to study biology feeling right. During my studies I noticed that my way was more in the direction of animals than plants, and if I want to learn something about plants, than it must be trees.
At some points, probably it has to do with my time on Helgoland and the whale I saw for my first time, I had the feeling to capture all the great stuff I was discovering outside. I started to photograph birds, butterflies, bees, beetles, flowers, trees – to show the people around me what I have seen. In a nature conservation organisation, I started to talk about my experiences and my photographs and did a lot of volunteering work with kids. This leads me from my home, through Stuttgart to Kiel into the Zoological Museum where I started to guide people through the amazing exhibitions of this wonderful house. In the museum I got a lot of influence of the director, my colleagues which became one of the best friends I ever had. There I also worked in a marvellous group about science communication, where I learned more of talking about the fascination about my passion. Not least because of a great colleague, which became a good friend and something like a mentor and my personal life coach After two years I decided to go into a nature conservation organizationin the Southern Harz to work there to show people the beauty of the world and of biodiversity and so to leave behind familiar paths. Here I get a lot of connections to political actors, volunteers, farmers, like-minded people and opponents and also the industry. That’s were I am noew. All the time I am still learning to distinguish between idealism, realism and fascination and if I am at the end of myy Tree of Project, I want to be a good Biologist. Thanks to all they join my way!

May’s #scicommchall suggested by Nena: Show us your “Tree of Project”!

Nena is suggesting this month’s #scicommchall. She writes:

“The tree of live shows us the genesis of life. Single-cell organisms evolved in a complex environment. The cells go continuous through a development to organisms of higher levels. Different functions were taken over by different new compartments, new limbs were grown and life styles change from day to day, from year to year.

How is you project going on? Which point is the base of your project which developed into different branches of your own Tree of Project.”

We are super curious to see what you come up with!

A giveaway that works well for scicomm? Alice’s popsicle stick wave is such a great idea!

Such a fun giveaway with tons of scicomm potential suggested by Alice for April’s scicommchall on her awesome Instagram @scied_alice — and she even included a “how to” on her blog! Doesn’t this make you want to start playing right away? (And also: follow Alice on Twitter @Alice_in_SciEd!)
Alice writes:
“Have you ever tried a popsicle stick wave? For every popsicle stick added to the chain, there is some elastic potential energy added. When the chain is released, all that elastic potential energy is converted into kinetic energy, resolving into a motion that resembles a wave. Just look at the slow motion video, where you can only see a small chain released and think of the chain reaction when a huge amount of sticks is connected!
And by the way – that is my #scicommchall giveaway! Obviously, I‘d also include a booklet with instructions on how to set up the wave and an explanation of the phenomenon. And off it would go – the perfect SciComm giveaway for my 200th post! Keep an eye open for that special occasion!”

Motion cards for wave watching

Mirjam writing about giveaways that also work as scicomm props for April’s scicommchall:

One of my scicomm foci is wave watching: looking at the water and trying to figure out why the waves look exactly the way they do. What caused them? The wind, ships, animals? What’s the influence of the shape of the coastline or the depth distribution? That kind of stuff.

In order to discuss these kinds of questions, it’s useful to visualize wave crests (or troughs) in pictures, so everybody is talking about the same things, which is surprisingly difficult when you look at a moving water surface.

I like to annotate pictures and create gifs for my blog (like the one below) to then be able to explain things, but I am thinking that a motion card (you know? The kind of card that shows two or more pictures depending on the angle you look at them at) might be a fun way to show a similar thing. It would be small enough to carry with me to give to people at e.g. conferences, or cheap to send to people per (snail-) mail. People might like to put it up at their pin boards at work, or have it on their desks, or even send it to other people because it’s fun. And I think it could be intriguing enough that people would follow a link to read more about what’s displayed on the card and about wave watching in general. So it would be a way to get people curious about everyday physics.

What do you think? Would it work on you?

Spinning tops as giveaways as well as scicomm tools!

Katrin tells us about a really neat scicomm giveaway for April’s #scicommchall:

“My job is the science communication of a collaborative research center called SPIN+X. Physicists, engineers and chemists are working together within SPIN+X doing research on spin phenomena.

Spin is a property of particles like electrons, neutrons or protons. Because of their spin, those particles behave like little spinning tops. So, at science events we give away little spinning tops, with which we can show and explain phenomena like precession (the staggering of a spinning tops axis) and their application in spin research, for example for developing new kinds of electronics.

Besides their usefulness for science communication, the spinning tops are nice to play with whenever your bored because not everything can be as exciting as spin research