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A Hidden Talent January 14, 2013

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Brain Power, Human Body, Psychology and Behavior, Think About It.
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2 comments

I’ll bet you have something you’re really good at. Maybe you’re a whiz in school, a fabulous actor or you’re great at shooting hoops on the basketball court. We all have talents. But some of us are hiding these talents from others.

Research shows that kids are avoiding fun stuff like sports because they fear being teased.

Yet, it seems strange to hide something that we’re good at and probably like a lot. Doesn’t it make sense to enjoy the compliments and appreciation from those who get to experience our talents?

Sadly, that’s not always the case. Instead of kind words, some children bully others for their talents.

Held Back By Fear

A new survey by the Anti-Bullying Alliance in the United Kingdom (UK) shows that kids sometimes hide their talents to avoid being bullied. More than 90 percent of kids in the UK have been bullied or seen someone being bullied for their talents or intelligence. Clearly, bullies can pick on all sorts of things about a person – their talents being one of them.

In fact, a whopping nearly half of the kids who answered the survey said they had played down their talent because they were scared of being bullied. Worse still, more than a quarter actually stopped doing something they liked because they were scared of being teased about it.

Missing Out

One in five girls purposefully downplayed their ability at maths to avoid being made fun of, while one in 10 boys did the same. Other kids stopped singing, playing sports and participating in dancing or drama.

But wait, it doesn’t stop there. Kids who hide their talents can ultimately end up missing out on school classes, failing courses, dropping out of sports and more. Basically, they will narrow down all their choices of potentially fun and rewarding activities.

If you’re good at a subject in school, don’t let your fears of what others think stop you. Embrace your talent!

Bring Talents Out Of Hiding

It’s bad enough that bullying leaves kids feeling rotten and can lead to depression and other problems. When you’re left feeling like you can’t enjoy and make the most of your talent, life loses some of its spark.

If you feel scared to follow your talents because you’re worried of what people will say, try talking to a trusted adult for support.

Also, find out how you can cope with bullying by visiting the Anti-Bullying Alliance website. Here, you will find loads of tips to help you deal with bullying at school and elsewhere.

Tips for ages 5-11

Tips for ages 11-16

Tips for ages 16+

Take A Stand Against Sitting January 10, 2013

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Brain Power, Easy As Pie, Human Body, Nutrition and Health, Obesity.
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3 comments

Exercise is good – you probably already know that, don’t you? So it makes sense that people who have jobs involving lots of sitting might not be getting enough. What’s the solution? According to exercise expert John Buckley from the University of Chester, we should all stand up more. Dr Buckley explains:

It’s little changes in behaviour…that can add up to make quite a big difference to your health.

Dr Buckley likes to practice what he preaches. Check him out standing straight as he works on his laptop!

Jump Up!

A mere three hours a day of standing can burn off 8lbs (3.6kg) of fat each year. Dr Buckley points out that between working at a desk, sitting in a car and perching in front of the television, people are far too sedentary – meaning they’re way too inactive.

Fortunately, there are some neat desks designed to allow you to stand while you’re working. So for adults, there are no more excuses if you’re stuck at a desk all day.

What About Kids In School?

If you’re in school, it’s a bit trickier because of the standard desks. Plus, your teacher will probably think you’re standing to answer questions. Instead, you can fight inactivity by making sure you get plenty of movement during lunch and breaks. Try kicking around a ball on the field. If walking to school is an option, it’s good exercise and also a great way to shake off the sleep cobwebs for the day.

I bet there are many more ways to stay fit if you’re often at a desk. Tell me – how do you stay active?

Males Can Sniff Out A Well Fed Female July 8, 2011

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Animals, Brain Power, Insects, Think About It.
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11 comments

If they’re a male black widow spider, that is. Simply by taking a little saunter across the female’s web, a male black widow can sense if a female is hungry or not. Why does it matter? Because female black widow spiders have a rather freaky habit of eating the male after mating. It’s how they earned their dangerous name.

Now that’s one massive female black widow spider. You would almost think she’s been doing some seriously heavy weights at the gym. But nope, females are normally much bigger than males. Those males best watch out!

The Smell Of Safety

Males have developed this very useful technique, which tells them whether or not a female has recently eaten. But if a female is hungry, she would be more likely to cannibalize the male spider. They take a sniff of those silk strands and then decide if they want to proceed or scurry away. A new study discovered this interesting skill and published the findings in the journal Animal Behaviour. So, how do researchers actually go about testing something like this?

Feeding Time For The Ladies

First things first. The researchers fed a bunch of hungry female back widow spiders. Using a cricket neatly held between forceps, they rested it on the web and waited for the female to come over, wrap the cricket in silk and chow down. The females got one cricket each week. Yet, by the time the fourth week came around, they weren’t so hungry anymore and didn’t really want to eat the crickets.

I bet this female black widow spider is thinking: “Ah, the satisfaction from a good meal of crickets. I think I’ll accept the advances of the male spider perched nearby. Since I’m well fed, I probably won’t eat him after we’re done.”

Another bunch of female black widow spiders were starved for a few weeks. It apparently didn’t put their lives at risk, but they did get a bit smaller. Now, let’s find out what happened when a male was placed on the web of a well fed or a starved spider.

One Step, Two Step, Three Step…Four

Since the male spiders can pick up scents with their feet, they were able to figure out the difference from one female to another just by walking on the web. Normally, a male black widow spider has a special dance he does to court the female.

In this experiment, the males danced far more actively on the webs of well fed females. Smart dudes! If anything, dancing and mating would leave them ready to eat – not be eaten! Typically, they dance around for an hour or two, which sure shows their dedication to the purpose. They wave their legs and pluck and tap at the web in a unique way, so that unlike prey they show the female they are interested to mate rather than become dinner.

If Only I Had Such Powers

Now I have a strong sense of smell but definitely nothing like these male black widow spiders. It’s too bad because I’m really scared of spiders even though I know most are harmless. If I had my way, I’d be able to simply smell any spider from several meters away. That would give my timid self enough time to run!

No Fair! December 21, 2010

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Animals, Easy As Pie.
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2 comments

Despite the exclamation above, I’m not throwing a temper tantrum. But I do get frustrated when I read news stories about science and think “Woah, this is really complicated.” It’s one reason I started this blog. To learn about a few more reasons, you can see an interview I did for the Charlotte Observer here.

Speaking of unfair things, if you read my last post and wondered if Tiko ever got off the toilet, well the picture on the right should answer your question.

His furry derriere is still planted firmly on the porcelain potty. He says it’s actually rather comfortable and he even had the audacity to ask me to serve him some liver treats and install a television on the wall.

I’ve already decided that if I ever start another blog, it will be called Weird Dogs.

A Trip Down Your Toilet December 10, 2010

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Brain Power, Environment, Human Body, Tough Stuff.
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3 comments

Nope, I’m not giving a lesson on plumbing. But I am going to give you the scoop on a secret that starts inside your toilet, all thanks to the crew at Thames Water who are helping people stay warm this winter. What’s this secret? Well, when a toilet takes your daily (or whatever frequency..let’s not go there) offering, all that human gunk can get converted into renewable gas to heat your home.

In fact, my dog Tiko got so excited about this concept, he decided to contribute. Before we see what he got up to though, let’s first find out what’s happening in the bowels of your toilet and then follow it through the twists and turns of the pipes below.

A Good Kind Of Gas

Each time you perch on the toilet, you may soon take heart that you’re not the only one who’s a bit lighter – you’re taking a burden off the environment as well. Approximately 200 homeowners in an English town called Didcot are among the first in the UK to benefit from gas made from their own waste and supplied through the national grid to heat their houses. The future plan is to make this process available throughout the UK.

So why all the fuss to find new sources of energy? Well, the UK has a goal for 2020 to have 15 percent of the energy it produces come from renewable sources. Producing gas in this way is a strong step toward that goal. Oh, and if you’re worried your house will be smelly, fear not! The gas is odorless and your house will remain toasty.

From Flush To Finish

From the time you flush your toilet to the time your house gets heat, it’s around 23 days. Let’s take it step-by-step, based on the procedure and image below that Thames Water has generously shared.

Waste has a bit of a path to travel before making your home warm. But it’s worth the trip because it brings the UK closer to its energy goals.

  1. All the muck from toilets and stuff like sinks and dishwashers gets channeled to the Didcot works. Let me tell you, with 13.8 million customers, it’s a lot of waste!
  2. Waste gets separated into sludge and water inside settlement tanks
  3. Water is put through cleaning processes and then back to the environment it goes via a local watercourse
  4. Sludge goes a different route. It gets heated in massive containers called digesters. All the heat gets anaerobic digestion going, which is where bacteria breaks down biodegradable material. Now, we’re left with biomethane – also called biogas
  5. The gas gets collected and goes into a gas cleaning machine
  6. After the biomethane gets cleaned and smells more like normal gas, it goes to the national gas grid
  7. From here, it’s just like any other gas in the grid. Off it goes to heat up your home and fuel other things like your stove

Tiko Turds

Once Tiko heard about the capabilities of poo, he did what all good and respectable dogs do – he went to relieve himself. But instead of trotting to the door for me to let him outside, he wanted to do his part to help heat up the house. The cheeky mutt raced into the bathroom and plonked himself down on the toilet.

When Tiko found out that human waste from toilets was being used as a renewable source of energy to heat homes, he decided to help out. Now, where’s the air freshener?

I appreciate that he’s determined to help the environment but I tried to explain that nobody wants to sit on a toilet seat covered in his fur. He responded by barking at me to close the door because he wanted some privacy.

On second thought, I should be grateful I have such an environmentally conscious dog, even if he is a modest one.

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