Brisbane Water Learning Community Development Day

Hello again everyone,

Thank you again for the invitation to speak at the Brisbane Water Learning Community Development Day and for being such a great audience to speak to!

I just did some number crunching. There were 260 of you in the audience yesterday and I was told about half of you were from primary schools and half from high school. I’ve assumed that, on average, you each have 15 years of teaching left ahead of you (some will have more, some less, it’s just an estimate.) I’ve also assumed you each have 28 pupils in your class and that the high school teachers teach six classes each. With those assumptions, you will collectively teach 327,600 kids between now and your retirement. Wow! If I shared just one good idea or feeling that makes you even happier and more excited about teaching those young people, then I am a happy little scientist.

It was a terrific morning in Woy Woy and I hope the rest of your day was fruitful, fun and restorative and that you are all amped for another six months of teaching and learning. As promised, below are the links to the key points in my talk (I’m sorry there are so many, I get excited.) Please let me know if I have missed anything important or if you’d like any more information via the comments option below.

In the meantime, best wishes for another six months inspiring all those young minds to seek answers to the biggest questions they can ask.

Warm regards,



Coming up on Catalyst (subject to change) ABC1, Thursdays 8.00pm

17/07/14   Tattoos and tattoo removal

28/08/14  Weight loss: when you lose weight, where does it go?

TBC          Nature play: the benefits of unstructured outdoor play in nature

TBC          Laser pointer safety



Laserdyne an amazing high-tech Australian laser engineering company and my first “proper” job

Laser safety and classification Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Authority (ARPANSA)

ARPANSA Safety guide for the use of lasers and radiation in schools this is worth discussing with students

Laser pointer prohibition: improving safety or driving misclassification conference paper by Trevor Wheatley about the problem and dangers of imported laser pointers (will appear in a Catalyst story about laser safety this year)

Retinal Injuries from a Handheld Laser Pointer New England Journal of Medicine report about a 15 year old boy who suffered eye damage from a laser

Pilots welcome jail for laser offender (ABC News) just one of many news reports of people shining lasers at helicopters and planes


Optimism #1 – Teaching is the most important profession

World Teachers’ Day (UNESCO) 5 October every year

World Teachers’ Day (NSW Teachers Federation) last Friday of October every year

UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers (1966) the really good stuff starts on Page 20!

Prime Ministers Prizes for Science nominate someone

Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt donates prize money to Primary Connections The Australian Newspaper (07/12/11)


Optimism #2 – The most peaceful times in human history

The Better Angels of Our Nature  book by Professor Steven Pinker (2011)

The surprising decline in violence Steven Pinker’s 20min TED Talk

Steven Pinker: A History of Violence 37min talk at the Singularity Summit

Violence Vanquished Wall Street Journal essay by Steven Pinker (features the two graphs I used in my slides)

New South Wales Crimes Act 1900 – Section 59A Assault during public disorder

YouTube video titled “State of Origin – Best Fights: Top 30 of all time!”


Optimism #3 – The Flynn Effect

The Mean IQ of Americans: Massive Gains 1932 to 1978 James Flynn (1984) Psychological Bulletin Vol. 95 No. 1 NOTE: this is the original paper that led to the term “The Flynn Effect”

The Flynn Effect  summary of the hypotheses by Indiana University’s Dr Jonathan Plucker

Why our IQ levels are higher than our grandparents’ Prof James Flynn’s TED Talk


Optimism #4 – The Bystander Effect

Bystander Effect YouTube video (3min 35sec)

“The bystander-effect: A meta-analytic review on bystander intervention in dangerous and non-dangerous emergencies.” Fischer, P. et al. (2011) Psychological bulletin Vol. 137 No.4 *subscription required

The Murder of Kitty Genovese Wikipedia page with good citations to further reading


Optimism #5 – Unsolved Mysteries

I only mentioned a few questions science has no answers for (yet.) Others include “why do we need sleep?”, “what is cancer, exactly?”, “what is life, where did it begin and how?”, “does life exist anywhere else in the universe?”, “how will the universe end?”, “what was there before the universe popped into existence?”… and that’s just to name a few. Did you know that when you were an embryo, about three days after your were conceived and just before you implanted yourself into the walls of your mother’s uterus, you hatched just like a chicken? It’s true but do ask an IVF expert if you don’t believe me. In the meantime, here are some links:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks New York Times review of the Rebecca Skloot’s award winning book

A brief history of the universe Dr Karl’s Great Moments in Science

How do we know the universe is expanding Dr Karl’s Great Moments in Science

High resolution solar spectrum the “missing bits” in Sunlight that tell us what the Sun is made of


The Science of Crowds & Cocktail Parties

“The Cocktail Party Problem” McDermott, J. H. (2009) Current Biology Vol. 19 No. 22

The Cocktail Party Problem with 8, 4, 2 & 1 Speakers play or download the sound files at the author Josh McDermott’s website

“Margaret Thatcher: A new illusion” Thompson, P. (1980) Perception Vol. 9 No.4

“The Sound of Many Hands Clapping” Neda, Z. et al (2000) Nature Vol. 403

“Huygen’s Clocks” Bennett, M. et al (2002) Proceedings of the Royal Society A Vol. 458 *subscription required

Five Synchronised Metronomes  ABC3 clip and Ruben’s notes  

32 Metronomes filmed at Ikeguchi Laboratory 2012 (YouTube)

Jung’s Synchronicity Wikipedia

Wolfgang Pauli Wikipedia

Deepak Chopra quote generator (thanks to @joalabaster for this link!)

Littlewood’s Law of Miracles  Wikipedia

“Flocks, Herds, and Schools: A Distributed Behavioral Model”  Reynolds, C. W. (1987) Computer Graphics Vol. 21 No. 4 (SIGGRAPH Conference Proceedings)

Craig Reynold’s Website Animating “boids”, flocks, schools and herds

“The simulation of the movement of fish schools” Huth A. & Wissel C. (1992) Theoretical Biology Vol. 156 No. 3 *subscription required

“The simulation of fish schools in comparison with experimental data” Huth A. & Wissel C. (1994) Ecological Modelling Vol. 75/76  *subscription required

Animated fish form a bait ball  animation by Nakamura Masayoshi 

Sheep Cyclone YouTube

“Quorum decision-making facilitates information transfer in fish shoals” Ward, A. et al (2008) Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America Vol. 105 No. 19

“Catalyst: Follow the leader” features Dr Ashley Ward’s brilliant fish maze experiment (originally aired 2010, produced by Anja Taylor)

Champagne, Mentos and Diet Coke

Méthode Traditionnelle (Sparkling Wine Production) Wikipedia

“On the Losses of Dissolved CO2 During Champagne Serving” Liger-Belair, G. et al (2010) Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry Vol. 58

“Uncorked: The Science of Champagne” Gerard Liger-Belair (2004)

“Diet Coke and Mentos: What is really behind this physical reaction?” Tonya S Coffey (2008)  American Journal of Physics Vol. 76 No. 6 *subscription required

Diet Coke and Mentos on David Letterman’s Late Show (1999) This is apparently the first time the demonstration appeared on television



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