Issue 4

Editorials

Welcome to the fourth issue of Science in School

Once again, we are happy to offer you a wide range of articles written by teachers, scientists and others from nine different countries.

Back in the staffroom

Design the cover for Science in School!

Do you or your students enjoy painting and drawing as well as teaching or learning science? Would you like to see your artwork reproduced 30,000 times and distributed across Europe? The Science in School cover competition gives you and your students the opportunity to do just that.

Cutting-edge science

Silken, stretchy and stronger than steel!

Could spider silk be the answer to medical and military challenges? Giovanna Cicognani from the Institut Laue-Langevin and Montserrat Capellas from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, France, investigate Christian Riekel and Tilo Seydel’s research into this remarkable material.

How do muscles produce work? Using optical tweezers to study molecular machines

Alexandre Lewalle from King’s College, London, UK, pushes back the frontiers of our knowledge of motors – at the molecular level.

Event reports

Launch event of Cinema and Science (CISCI)

Science and science fiction are the basis of many popular films. Rafael Reyeros from the CISCI project describes the launch of this Internet database to help teachers use film clips to illustrate, discuss and debate science in their lessons.

Features

Ethics in research

Is it acceptable to use human embryonic stem cells in research? What about live animals? Professor Nadia Rosenthal, head of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Monterotondo, Italy, talks to Russ Hodge about the ethics of her research.

Reviews

Molecular Biology of the Cell* and Molecular Biology of the Cell: A Problems Approach, By Tim Hunt and John Wilson

The success of an academic discipline has a lot to do with the attractiveness of its founding ideas and discoveries. These in turn reach the next generation of practitioners through textbooks.

The Third Man of the Double Helix, By Maurice Wilkins

In this autobiographical book, Maurice Wilkins presents the chronological story of the discovery of DNA structure in 1953. As The Third Man of the Double Helix, Wilkins is well placed to describe the complex scientific background and people involved in the breakthrough that earned him and fellow scientists Francis Crick and James Watson the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Rhythms of Life: The Biological Clocks That Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing, By Leon Kreitzman and Russell Foster

Rhythms of Life is a successful attempt to present what is currently known about time cycles in living creatures. It is a book about biological clocks, that is, the biological mechanisms that enable all organisms from bacteria to worms, plants, birds and mammals, including humans, to ‘tell’ the time. This extraordinary ability in organisms allows the exhibition of rhythmic behaviour that can be presented in cycles of a single day (circadian) or longer than one day (infradian).

Science education projects

Explor@mobile: using new technologies to teach science to teenagers

Claire Le Moine from Explor@dome in Paris, France, explains the formula of the explor@mobile: two scientists, some computers and a gas-powered vehicle!

Fair enough? Balanced considerations for future science-fair organisers

Eva Amsen considers the pros and cons of science fairs, and offers tips for how teachers can get involved – or even organise their own science fair.

The Faulkes Telescopes: real-time, remote-control astronomy for schools

Ever wanted to take a closer look at the stars? Rachel Dodds from the Faulkes Telescope Project explains how you can do just that – together with your students and without even leaving your classroom!

Scientists@work

Teaching science in the classroom is all very well, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to let your students learn for themselves what it’s really like to work in a research laboratory? Sooike Stoops from the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), Belgium, describes a project that does just that!

Science in film

Erin Brockovich

Films about science or even pseudo-science can be powerful tools in the classroom. Jenna Stevens from the CISCI project provides a toolkit for using the film Erin Brockovich in chemistry and ecology lessons.

Science topics

Plant hallucinogens as magical medicines

Did witches once soar through the night sky on broomsticks? Or were they hallucinating after eating or touching certain plants? Angelika Börsch-Haubold explains how modern pharmacology helps us to understand the action of many toxic plants – some of which are still used in medicine.

Is traditional engineering the right system with which to manipulate our world?

We are relative newcomers on Earth and still have a lot to learn. Julian Vincent from the University of Bath, UK, investigates some of the lessons we can learn from the living world.

Fusion in the Universe: we are all stardust

Henri Boffin and Douglas Pierce-Price from ESO, in Garching, Germany, investigate our celestial ancestry.

Scientist profiles

You’re researching what? Toothpaste?

Linda Sellou, a French PhD student at Bristol University, UK, tells Sai Pathmanathan, a science education journalist, what she thought of her school science and what she’s up to now…

Teaching activities

Two hydrolytic enzymes and an epistemological–historical approach

Why are enzymes so special? How do they differ from inorganic catalysts? Isabella Marini from the University of Pisa, Italy, describes a classroom protocol to enable students to answer these questions for themselves.

Democs: a conversation card activity for teaching science and citizenship

Karen Smith from NEF, the New Economics Foundation, London, UK, describes an approach to creating a safe space where students can discuss sensitive topics, like stem-cell research or genetically modified food. How can students be encouraged to explore their values in relation to science topics, and to debate the ethics of science itself?

A fresh look at light: build your own spectrometer

Take a CD and a cereal box, and what do you have? With a little help from Mark Tiele Westra, your very own spectrometer! Time to explore the delights of colour, hidden in the most prosaic of objects.