Elf Eldridge

“Just So Science” – The Clouds that Weren’t - Just So Science

May 11, 2011

What’s the best thing about living in the Southern Hemisphere? Winter! Sure, the above image is taken from an observatory in Chile, but in NZ we get treated to a similar view of the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and they just get better and better as we move further and further into winter. To really appreciate it you need to position yourself somewhere without too much light pollution (Stonehenge Aotearoa in the Wairarapa is my pick!) but even from Wellington on a good night we can get some pretty spectacular views. Small and Large Magellanic Clouds To see this in our skies look directly south-east an hour or so after dark and what you will see is the above image rotated approximately 90 degrees clockwise. The widest section … Read More

“Just So Science” – The Whanau that Learnt - Just So Science

May 04, 2011

I’ve mentioned Te Ropu Awhina several times in my first few posts, so I just want to draw some attention to them, briefly explain who they are and why they’re important in a scientific context! Awhina started in 1999 as a group of like-minded individuals at Victoria University in Wellington, connected by their kaupapa of producing Maori and Pacific scientists, engineers, mathematicians, designers and architects. Specifically by promoting: “…high expectations, high aspirations and high achievements, collective success and reciprocity, and success in two worlds.” Why was this necessary? Because Maori and Pacific are grossly under-represented in STEM subjects at tertiary level. Awhina whanau 2010 Awhina has arms both on and off campus. The on-campus arm aims to assist those students already at university whereas … Read More

“Just So Science” – How Saturn Lost his Ears - Just So Science

May 01, 2011

Well I’ve been doing far to much ranting and far too little hard science recently so here’s something everyone can enjoy! In NZ we’re really lucky at this time of the year to have a great view of the planet Saturn which appears over the eastern horizon after dark and rotates upwards and towards the north as the night goes on. It can be a little tricky to find if you’re not familiar with the skies though! So look for two bright ‘stars’ on a flat line above the eastern horizon. If you’re doing this at dusk these will be the only two ‘stars’ visible. Saturn showing Polar Aurora The right hand one (southernmost) is a star called Spica, the main star in Virgo, a blue giant blazing away about 260 … Read More

“Just So Science” – How the Horizon was Crafted - Just So Science

Apr 29, 2011

This is somewhat of a follow-on from my earlier post about the ideas that sprung from the Science and Innovation in Education Forum. I’ll do my best to explain each idea in the context that it was created, the issues it’s attempting to address, and physically how it will be achieved. That said I certainly don’t have answers for everything and comments/improvements/suggestions/abuse is more than welcome to help me (and my whanau) refine them. Here goes! Te Ropu Awhina whanau Firstly the importance of groups like Te Ropu Awhina cannot be understated. By simply doing  outreach experiments with a community rather than just kids, students or teachers they change the perceptions and inform people at the same time. Similarly, pushing students to excel at … Read More

“Just So Science” – The Ways of the Wind - Just So Science

Apr 29, 2011

As I was lucky enough to attend the Science and Innovation in Education Forum last week I thought I might report back on the sorts of things that were said and my own particular take on them. Ostensibly the forum was set up to discuss: The role of STEM education in generating innovation. What employers want of employees. What support and changes are required to promote a science-based economy. (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Although that rapidly devolved as the various sections overlapped. What emerged was a clear idea of the problems, some excellent (but very general) solutions and a few concrete recommendations. The problems that really stood out as central discussion points were: Low rate of transformation of ideas & research into businesses Low levels of Maori and Pacific success in academia Low … Read More

“Just So Science” – The Nation that Talked - Just So Science

Apr 22, 2011

Much has been said recently about New Zealand’s desire to create a knowledge-based economy rather than a manufacturing one. Much has also been said about the structure of the PhD, its purpose and relevance to a modern society, and how to keep the best graduates in New Zealand. Much has been said about the low number of Maori and Pacifica students succeeding at tertiary education, and the fact that these are the two fastest growing ethnic groups in New Zealand (arguably the only two ethnic groups that are actively growing). Much has been said about the dire need for innovation in both business and science. Much has been said about the New Zealand Government’s relatively low spending on Research and Development and Education  as a function of GDP compared to other more ‘prosperous’ nations. taken from a talk by … Read More

“Just So Science” – The Hunter and the Bull - Just So Science

Apr 15, 2011

My astronomy posts are based on what I talk about each week at Carter Observatory during planetarium shows and telescope viewing  sessions. Much of the information is gleaned from the monthly summaries provided by the excellent Alan Gilmore at the University of Cantebury’s Mt John Observatory which can be accessed (for April) here:  http://www.rasnz.org.nz/Stars/EveningSky/Apr11Sky.html Personally I remember the main stars, and their colours an then use imaginary lines to navigate the sky, unfortunately this is not particularly well facilitated by the currently available star chats (which are still great though), visible on the right,  so I will be editing small portions of the star charts, to allow colour comparison and for general ‘prettyness’ (and also to teach myself Inkscape – BTW if you would like to similarly learn … Read More

“Just So Science” – How the Kiwi reached the Edge of Space - Just So Science

Apr 14, 2011

Well, Tuesday 12th April 2011 is a day that will live on in infamy…. as the spectacular launch of the Kiwispace Foundation, and possibly for a few other reasons. Celebrations at both Stardome in Auckland and Carter Observatory, ostensibly to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s achievement of the first human spaceflight, went off without a hitch. Carter was even lucky enough to be visited by the Russian Ambassador who kicked off the evening by presenting Carter some rare photographs of Yuri and his family. Attendees also got to view this special surprise message from Commander Dmitry Kondratyev on the ISS: [vimeo]http://vimeo.com/22326753[/vimeo] But, behind these celebrations, something else had happened a couple of days earlier, in a field in the Waikato. Kiwispace launched its first successful mission to the Edge of Space (well, the 1950’s definition of it anyway). Here … Read More

“Just So Science” – The Butterfly that Stamped - Just So Science

Apr 12, 2011

I wanted to use my first post to welcome one of our national symbols to the folds of nanoscience! Say hello to Eudyptula minor, Korora in Maori or the Little Blue Penguin to its friends. Little Blue Penguin These quirky little critters have just been shown, by a group from Yale and Akron Universities (sadly without any Kiwi institutions contributing), to have some some seriously spectacular feathers. The feathers on their backs that give them their distinctive ‘Blue’ colour achieve this with a combination of pigmentation (like our skin and hair) and nanostructured cylinders. You see, the wonderful thing about nanoscience is that it works with structures smaller than the wavelength of visible light. So what? Well, that means, amongst other things, that trying to ‘see’ these things by looking down a high powered microscope is largely pointless as they … Read More