Jul 282015
 

future learn

 

 

 

Gravity! From the Big Bang to Black Holes

Gravity runs the Universe. This free online course explains why, focussing on key concepts from the Big Bang to black holes.

About the course

What is gravity? This fundamental force is the common theme between concepts as intriguing as the Big Bang, black holes, dark energy, space-time, gravitational waves and the expansion of the Universe.

If these concepts pique your interest, this free online course is for you. It doesn’t require any background in physics or mathematics, just a simple curiosity about the Universe and our place in it.

Mark the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s theory of relativity

The theory of gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, was published exactly 100 years ago. This course presents in a simple manner the main ideas behind this theory, before explaining why “gravity is the engine of the Universe.”

The basic notions are then introduced to understand why the Universe is in expansion. We’ll find out:

• why the further you look, the more distant the past is;
• how we can tell what happened just after the Big Bang;
• what the dark components of the Universe are;
• why we’re so impatiently expecting the discovery of gravitational waves;
• and what happens when you cross the horizon of a black hole.

Learn with experts including a Nobel Prize-winning physicist

Over six weeks, you’ll learn with Pierre Binétruy, the Director of the Paris Centre for Cosmological Physics at Paris Diderot University, as well as the cosmologist, George Smoot, who will explain the discovery that earned him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2006.

More information here

Requirements

This course doesn’t require any background in physics or mathematics, just a simple curiosity about the Universe.

Jul 022015
 

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Light plays a vital role in our everyday lives and technologies based on light are all around us. So we might expect that our understanding of light is pretty settled. But scientists have just uncovered a new fundamental property of light that gives new insight into the 150-year-old classical theory of electromagnetism and which could lead to applications manipulating light at the nanoscale.

It is unusual for a pure-theory physics paper to make it into the journal Science. So when one does, it’s worth a closer look. In the new study, researchers bring together one of physics’ most venerable set of equations – those of James Clerk’s Maxwell’s famous theory of light – with one of the hot topics in modern solid-state physics: the quantum spin Hall effect and topological insulators.

To understand what the fuss is about, let’s first consider the behaviour of electrons in the quantum spin Hall effect. Electrons possess an intrinsic spin as if they were tiny spinning-tops, constantly rotating about their axis. This spin is a quantum-mechanical property, however, and special rules apply – the electron has only two options open to it: it can either spin clockwise or anticlockwise (conventionally called spin-up or spin-down), but the magnitude of the spin is always fixed.

In certain materials, the spin of the electron can have a big effect on the way electrons move. This effect is called “spin-orbit coupling” and we can get an idea of how it works with a footballing analogy. By hitting a freekick with spin, a footballer can make the ball deviate to the left or the right as it travels through the air. The direction of the movement depends on which way the ball is spinning.

Henrik_Larsson_Euro_2004

Spin-orbit coupling causes electrons to experience an analogous spin-dependent deflection as they travel, although the effect arises not from the Magnus effect as in the case for the football, but from electric fields within the material.

A normal electrical current consists of an equal mixture of moving spin-up and spin-down electrons. Due to the spin-orbit effect, spin-up electrons will be deflected one way, while spin-down electrons will be deflected the other. Eventually the deflected electrons will reach the edges of the material and be able to travel no further. The spin-orbit coupling thus leads to an accumulation of electrons with different spins on opposite sides of the sample.

This effect is known as the classical spin Hall effect, and quantum mechanics adds a dramatic twist on top. The quantum-mechanical wave nature of the travelling electrons organises them into neat channels along the edges of the sample. In the bulk of the material, there is no net spin. But at each edge, there form exactly two electron-carrying channels, one for spin-up electrons and one for spin-down. These edge channels possess a further remarkable property: the electrons that move in them are impervious to the disorder and imperfections that usually cause resistance and energy loss.

This precise ordering of the electrons into spin-separated, perfectly conducting channels is known as the quantum spin Hall effect, which is a classic example of a “topological insulator”– a material that is an electrical insulator on the inside but that can conduct electricity on its surface. Such materials represent a fundamentally distinct organisation of matter and promise much in the way of spintronic applications. Read heads of hard drives based on this technology are currently used in industry.

Beginning to see the light

Now, the new study suggests that the seeds of this seemingly exotic quantum spin Hall effect are actually all around us. And it is not to electrons that we should look to find them, but rather to light itself.

In modern physics, matter can be described either as a wave or a particle. In Maxwell’s theory, light is an electromagnetic wave. This means it travels as a synchronised oscillation of electric and magnetic fields. By considering the way in which these fields rotate as the wave propagates, the researchers were able to define a property of the wave, the “transverse spin”, that plays the role of the electron spin in the quantum spin Hall effect.

In a homogeneous medium, like air, this spin is exactly zero. However, at the interface between two media (air and gold, for example), the character of the waves change dramatically and a transverse spin develops. Furthermore, the direction of this spin is precisely locked to the direction of travel of the light wave at the interface. Thus, when viewed in the correct way, we see that the basic topological ingredients of the quantum spin Hall effect that we know for electrons are shared by light waves.

This is important because there has been an array of high-profile experiments demonstrating coupling between the spin of light and its direction of propagation at surfaces. This new work gives a integrative interpretation of these experiments as revealing light’s intrinsic quantum spin Hall effect. It also points to a certain universality in the behaviour of waves at surfaces, be they quantum-mechanical electron waves or Maxwell’s classical waves of light.

Harnessing the spin-orbit effect will open new possibilities for controlling light at the nanoscale. Optical connections, for example, are seen as a way of increasing computer performance, and in this context, the spin-orbit effect could be used to rapidly reroute optical signals based on their spin. With applications proposed in optical communications, metrology, and quantum information processing, it will be interesting to see how the impact of this new twist on an old theory unfolds.

Jul 012015
 

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Funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, Dundee-based engineers and students will be preparing activities and learning information packages for use in class and online to explain the processes involved in the building of Dundee’s new railway station.

Resources for the classroom

Free online activities and class materials will be released with each stage through our website at

www.abertay.ac.uk/open/engineering

These will have background information about what’s happening at the Railway Station, images and associated learning activities aimed at each level of the curriculum. Corresponding Es&Os will be highlighted for each learning unit.

We will also send out posters for display in classrooms to highlight the STEM subjects and raise awareness of career prospects in engineering for your pupils.

“Scotland needs to find more than 147,000 extra engineers by 2022 in order to tap into rising demand worth billions of pounds to the economy”

Engineering UK 2015 ‘The State of Engineering’, produced for the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET)

 

 

Delivery points and stages of the learning programme:

Learning programme delivery dates Construction / Deconstruction dates Building phases and learning contexts
October to December 2015 2010 to 2013 Preconstruction phase. Dundee Railway Station is part of Dundee City’s 30 year Waterfront Regeneration project. Engineering content: The Victorian Railway tunnel which runs under the Central Waterfront development zone presented engineers with complex deconstruction challenges when bringing down the existing buildings. In addition, the road network through the central zone has to be reconfigured frequently to allow each stage of the area’s deconstruction and reconstruction to be carried out considerately and effectively. Learning opportunities will focus on the planning, design and costs of different options to the old railway station in Dundee.
Dec 2013; Dec 2014 Removing the old Railway Station building. Engineering content: The focus of this milestone will be the problematic removal of the building with live railway lines running underneath the station. Learning opportunities will provide a summary of the advance works that have been carried out to bring the students up to date on the background of the project including: utility diversions, stage 1 demolition of road over rail bridges and construction of new bridge structure and road, diversion of pedestrians and vehicles, construction of extended lay-by and bus area, construction of the temporary station facilities prior to demolition of the existing concourse building, Rail Maintenance Offices and bridge deck.
Sept – Jan 2016 Installing services. This topic will focus on how services are installed with the focus on the future needs of the railway station and how these predictions are made. The new infrastructure network currently being implemented as part of the £0.5 billion redevelopment of the Central Waterfront will include: the highest specification digital communication, an integrated transport hub at the new rail station and updated utilities.


January to June 2016 Jan – Aug 2016 Building the foundations for the new Railway Station. Engineering content: Foundations at this site will be problematic as this land was reclaimed c1900. The bearing pressure is inconsistent. This milestone will focus on ground engineering design and why piled foundations have been specified in this build project. Particular attention has to be on preserving the integrity of the railway abutment walls and working with live rail traffic, whilst installing rotary percussion bored piles
Feb to Aug 16 Bridge Construction, Ground Floor Structure & Platform Works. Engineering content: Installation of pre-fabricated steel beams, permanent deck formwork, steel reinforcement and in situ concrete over a live railway line.
Aug 2016 to Jan 2017 Building the superstructure of the railway station and hotel above. The new station concourse will consist of a triple-height arched space, framelessly glazed at both ends. The arched form responds to the structural requirement to span across the railway bridge below. Engineering content: will address construction considerations, materials and support requirements in building such an open expansive supporting structure over a tunnel, with the additional complexities of operating the build over live railway lines.
Oct 2016 to July 2017 Temporary Works. Engineering content: Construction of a multi storey building in close proximity to the railway and within a constrained site creates significant potential risks to both employee health and safety and for the protection of the railway infrastructure. The sequencing of the construction of the steel frame building is critical to ensure that at all times throughout the works the temporary structure is safe. Significant temporary measures will be required to be designed and installed throughout the course of the construction.
April 2016 Sustainability. Sustainability of buildings during construction, service and demolition is a major part of the design of any building. This session will include the three main pillars of sustainability in the construction context.
Oct 16 to Sept 2017 The External Building Cladding & Internal fit out Engineering content: incorporation of utilities, avoiding clash with steelwork, floors, walls and ceilings how 3D modelling helped to reduce delays and decrease fabrication costs on site. Ensuring the hotel rooms are constructed to provide the specified sound acoustic performance requirements.
Health & Safety will be covered in each section of the project. Introducing the importance of health and safety on site using topics such as the protection of the public and traffic management. Situated in the middle of one of Dundee’s busiest roads, traffic management of this site is a major part of the planning.

 

Jul 012015
 

summer of learning

Summer of Learning Professional Development

The 2015 Summer of Learning professional development series is brought to you by Share My Lesson in partnership with content leaders, authors and experienced educators. Over the course of four special days, preK-12 educators and parents have access to dozens of new webinars—for free.

The Professional Development Content Series includes:

  • Thursday, June 11: Summer Learning
  • Thursday, June 25: Humanities
  • Thursday, July 9: STEM
  • Thursday, July 23: Classroom Foundation and Back to School

How do I register?

  • Select one or all of the webinars below, and click register.
  • Each session will last about 50 minutes.

How do I get professional development credit?

  • Each webinar offers one hour of professional development credit.
  • The certificate will be available in your webinar portal at the end of each webinar.
  • You will be required to answer poll questions and complete a survey to receive the certificate.

REGISTER NOW

Jul 012015
 

future learn

 

 

Sam Smidt is one of the lead educators on The Open University’s free online course, The Science of Nuclear Energy. In this post, she discusses whether nuclear power can – or should – have a role in our future.

nuclaera power

Decommissioning old coal, gas and nuclear power stations in the 2020s will result in a shortfall of energy in the UK – an “energy gap.” The debate about how best to make up that shortfall really polarises public opinion. Should we invest in nuclear energy? Will renewable energy provide enough to fill the gap?

Many people believe we should commit to renewable energy sources, such as wind, wave and solar energy, which are carbon free and don’t carry any of the risks and concerns about nuclear energy.

But renewables carry their own problems – the supply of energy is intermittent, they are still relatively expensive, and there are lots of issues about where to site wind or solar farms.

So, why are there concerns about nuclear power and are they founded? What are the pros and cons of nuclear power?

The pros and cons of nuclear power

On the plus side, it’s the most straightforward way of reducing the UK greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. It would offer energy security, meaning we would be less dependent on imported power and we can assure the fuel needed for the full lifetime of a new reactor.

But on the minus side, it’s expensive to build new reactors and investors won’t get a return on their investment for many years and therefore want guarantees about the return they will get.

There are environmental risks which were highlighted recently by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011. This led Germany to cancel its entire nuclear programme.

Then there are the issues around nuclear waste – while new reactors must have plans for dealing with the waste designed in from the outset, there is still lots of uncertainty about how to deal with the long-term storage of nuclear waste from the last half century.

Should nuclear power solve the energy gap?

So, can nuclear power solve the energy gap? The answer to this is a fairly certain yes, so perhaps a better question is “Should nuclear power solve the energy gap?” The answer to that is much harder to give.

What is clear is that the energy gap should be addressed in more than one way. While nuclear power may be one facet of our future energy portfolio, green, renewable energy sources must continue to be developed and should form an increasing part of our energy portfolio.

The potential for smart meters and increased energy efficiency measures must be exploited faster to change the way we consume electricity. By being smarter in the ways in which we consume energy and diversifying the ways in which we generate energy, we might be able to minimise our dependence on energy sources that we are not comfortable with.

What do you think? Should nuclear power solve the energy gap? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below or using #FLnuclear15. Or to find out more about the intricacies of this debate, join the free online course, The Science of Nuclear Energy.

Jul 012015
 

abc

The Science of Nutrition

Explore the science behind what you eat with this free online course.

About the course

Are we really what we eat? And how do we know what is in our food?This free online course will look to answer some of these questions, by looking at the science behind nutrition, covering aspects of biology, chemistry and physics. You’ll look at the components of food that are given on food labels and consider how these are processed by the body.

There will be some human biology, focusing on the digestive system, including the liver, and the bloodstream, which carries the processed food components to all parts of the body. You will also find out how much energy different sorts of foods supply.

You will have the opportunity to carry out some experiments to find out a little more about the role that acid plays in digestion and how enzymes work, as well as working out how much energy is contained in a single peanut.

Finally, you’ll consider some of the advice that is given about what constitutes a healthy diet and how overconsumption has lead to an obesity epidemic in many countries of the world.

future learn

 

Starts September 21st – join here

Jul 012015
 

 

NLSC logo engage

 

 

 

 

A crowd funding web site recently raised more than two million US dollars to fund solar roadways. These roads, claim the developers, will remain snow-free, and, at the click of a switch, can be transformed into car parks or even sports pitches. In this activity students consider whether solar roadways are worth funding. They critique claims using reasoning and evidence, and apply what they know about generating electricity in solar cells, to make a decision.

Curriculum links include energy transfers, renewable energy sources, wave motion: waves transferring energy

Jun 232015
 

abertayrae

 

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Funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, Dundee-based engineers and students will be preparing activities and learning information packages for use in class and online to explain the processes involved in the building of Dundee’s new railway station.

Resources for the classroom

Free online activities and class materials will be released with each stage through our website at

www.abertay.ac.uk/open/engineering

These will have background information about what’s happening at the Railway Station, images and associated learning activities aimed at each level of the curriculum. Corresponding Es&Os will be highlighted for each learning unit.

We will also send out posters for display in classrooms to highlight the STEM subjects and raise awareness of career prospects in engineering for your pupils.

“Scotland needs to find more than 147,000 extra engineers by 2022 in order to tap into rising demand worth billions of pounds to the economy”

Engineering UK 2015 ‘The State of Engineering’, produced for the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET)

 

 

Jun 162015
 

Become a scientist using your phone!

Download these apps to your phone and you could be a citizen scientists – find out about bees and ladybirds in your area, collect bat sounds or even collect and measure samples of volcanic ash fall!

Scotland’s Environment provide a list of apps you can easily download and use to collect data, find out information and get involved with real-life science. Do you know about any other citizen science apps that people might like? Let Scotland’s Environment know here.

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http://www.environment.scotland.gov.uk/get-involved/mobile-apps/

Jun 112015
 

RSPB - Give Nature a HomeThe massive Cairngorms National Park covers an area as big as the island of Mallorca and is home to some of our rarest and most impressive wildlife.

In fact a quarter of all the rare bird, animal and plant species in the UK live here. Wildcats, red squirrels, capercaillies, crossbills, water voles and golden eagles all make their home in this landscape of mountains, rivers and pine forest.

Displaying male capercaillie

Have you ever fancied being a nature presenter, going on location to be filmed talking about amazing wildlife? Well here’s your chance!

Cairngorms Nature is looking for a Young Nature Presenter for 2016, someone with a passion for nature who can inspire other young people to get involved with caring about nature too.

The prize

The winner and their family will spend 5 nights at a fabulous private steading in Glen Feshie, in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, courtesy of Speyside Wildlife, who have been running all-inclusive wildlife watching holidays in this special place for 25 years.

The winner will spend one of the days with none other than BBC nature presenter Iolo Williams, picking up tips and making a short film about Cairngorms Nature!

The other three days will be jam packed, going out and about with one of Speyside Wildlife’s expert guides, looking for rare and elusive species like pine marten.

The prize includes full board accommodation for four people at Speyside Wildlife’s converted steading in Glen Feshie from Saturday 13 February to Thursday 18 February 2016, and the company of one of Speyside Wildlife’s guides to take you out exploring the area in the comfort of an 8-seater minibus.

How to enter

All we need is a short film of you as a nature presenter. It can be anything, from a ladybird on a window box to a deer in the wild – the important thing is that you are enthusiastic and know your stuff!

As part of the film you must also include the statement, “I would love to present Cairngorms Nature because…” then tell us the answer on camera.

The judges will be looking for people who are passionate and can inspire others. The film must be no more than 90 seconds long and you must be 10-16 years old to enter.

  1. Please ask an adult to read the ‘rules, terms and conditions’ before entering.
  2. Upload your video to YouTube, an adult can help you do this.
  3. Ask an adult to fill in the details in the form at the bottom of this page, this will include giving us the web address for your video from YouTube.
  4. Make sure to check the box stating you have read the rules, terms and conditions before submitting your video.

The closing date is 31 October 2015 – Good luck!

Get more info at:

http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/families/children/join_in/competitions/video-comp/

 

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