QUT VC’s STEM Camp 2013

G-day Campers!

It was an absolute pleasure to meet all of you last and thank you again for being such an enthusiastic, bright and motivated young audience… it’s very comforting to know the future of science, technology, engineering and maths is in great hands!

As promised, here’s a brief summary of my whirlwind tour of some of the things I love about science and mathematics I shared with you and some links to more info:

Professor Steven Pinker reckons now is the most peaceful time ever… and he has plenty of evidence to back that claim up in his awesome book  “The Better Angels of Our Nature”. If you don’t have time to read the book just yet, then, for your convenience, here he is in video summarising the main thrust in just 37 minutes and 25 seconds. And here’s his TED Video. And then, if you want even more Steven Pinker goodness in your life, you can watch heaps more of him here on FORA.tv. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I have a massive intellectual man-crush on Steven Pinker. He rocks!

In other great news, you ‘young folks’ are about nine IQ points ‘smarter’ than us oldies thanks to the Flynn Effect. Here’s a link to Professor James Flynn’s original 1984 paper in the Psychological Bulletin (published when I was in grade 8 at Kepnock State High School, Bundaberg, Queensland.)

Like me, most of you probably didn’t know that you hatched… isn’t that nuts? How did you  (and I) make it through eleven years of education (and how did I also get through a science degree and a graduate diploma in science communication) and NOT KNOW that we all hatched before implanting ourselves into our mother’s uterus? Eh? And so did our mums. And our grandmas. And so did theirs. And theirs. But… how and where did it all, ie life, begin? Eh? BIG QUESTION! Nobody knows.

Now, you can watch stacks of videos of me doing stuff with liquid nitrogen here, including some slow motion stuff, and there’ll be even more information on this page soon. Meanwhile, I know the concept of Absolute Zero spins most people but just in case you think you did understand it, here’s an article that’ll make your brain pop (it made mine go sssssshhhhplat!).

And I know I’ve probably said this enough but please, please, be very careful around liquid nitrogen and dry ice… remember the girl who lost her stomach, the guy who blew off his hands, the UK hospital technician and the CSIRO researcher who lost their lives and the very, very weird but also rather sad case of the Australian teacher who dared his students to hold dry ice as long as they could.

I probably also tickled your interest in the BIGGEST question human beings ask. We now know that, 13.72 billion years ago, everything in the Universe was contained in a tiny little speck which exploded in a very Big Bang because all the starlight from distant galaxies is red shifted. You can download a beautiful, super high resolution image of the solar spectrum of our Solar System’s star  (ie the Sun) here, courtesy of the United States’ National Optical Astronomy Observatory here.

And in case you’re really interested in a career in laser physics or engineering, here’s a link to Laserdyne where I got my first job after graduating from QUT. There are lots of very smart people there.

That’s probably enough from me for now. I look forward to bumping into you all again in a lab or lecture theatre somewhere in the big wide world some time in the not too distant future… until then,  best wishes for the next two years at high school. Be kind to each other, study hard, play harder and most of all have fun!!!



Leave a Reply