Category Archives: Fun, Silly and Funny

PCR Song: Class Project & TED Ed Lesson

This song by BioRad is a funny discussion starter on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and biotechnology. For a full lesson plan, with editable slides for students and a complete TED Ed lesson (with quiz), visit the full page.

Click to go to the TED-Ed lesson on PCR.

Click to go to the TED-Ed lesson on PCR.

Wringing out a wet towel in the ISS

This is a neat connection to the properties of water:


10 Amazing Illusions from Quirkology [Video]

Here is a collection of really simple illusions (including the Hermann Grid) from Richard Wiseman at Quirkology. A nice link to E2 Perception of Stimuli and TOK. Can we really trust our senses?


Manga Guides & Comics in Education

This tweet from the IB World Magazine links to an interesting article:

It also reminded me of these Manga Guides to Physics, Statistics, Biochemistry, Mathematics by NoStarch, which were shared recently by Frank Noschese and Dr Tae. They’re translated from Japanese, and written in the Manga style by artists and experts in their field.

You can see some sample pages on Scribd:

They are funny, with some clear explainers and a narrative context for the content. You could recreate some of the situations or experiments in class, and use pages as a discussion (in a similar way to concept cartoons).

I do have some concern that the common thread through the books is of a young girl who doesn’t ‘get it’ and so needs the help of an “explaining male*” (typically nerdy, with glasses) to be able to understand – and the motivation seems to be to save grades or achieve romance. Does this reinforce gender stereotypes, or would high school students see through it as part of the narrative gimmick? Being in Japan, I often see my students and other young adults on trains reading comic books with similar artwork and, I assume, storylines. The style is commonplace here, but I do wonder how girls in other countries would react to the imagery.

I can see it being recommended as a supplement to differentiate the presentation of content for students who are into the comic book/ manga genres, rather than as a class text.

SampleQ from Manga Guide to Physics – similar to Concept Cartoons.


* Mother Jones article: the problem with men explaining things

Fossil Rock Anthem!

Another great parody by Tom McFadden. Rock on, we shovelin’!

Last Lesson Shenanigans: Cork Cannons

Here’s a bit of fun for the last lesson of the year, with a sensible Chemistry or Physics class. The aim is to use the gas produced in the reaction between baking soda and dilute HCl (or vinegar) to propel a cork over a wall and into a beaker. Lots of fun with testing methods, hypothesising and problem solving.

Obvious safety issues: use low concentrations, keep washing hands and/or use gloves and keep goggles on at all times. Students must be sure to aim away from the body and each other.

Cork Cannons

Science Stunts for Parties

Richard Wiseman is a psychologist and author of Quirkology, the Curious Science of Everyday Lives. He also has a YouTube channel loaded with illusions and tricks. As dinner-party season approaches, here are some collections of little science tricks to impress your granny. Be careful with flames.

Robin Ince and the Infinite Monkey Cage

Robin Ince, rationalist and science-minded comic, give a short TED Talk on Science vs Wonder:

He also has a radio show/ podcast called The Infinite Monkey Cage, hosted with Brian Cox on the BBC. In this episode, Six Degrees of Separation, they discuss the connections of humans with Stephen Fry, Simon Singh and Alex Krotoski.

Symphony of Science – Quantum World

This Symphony of Science song is one of my favourites, which ties loosely to our new Grade 9 unit on Atoms.

Related to it is an update to the Powers of Ten video, from the IMAX Cosmic Voyage movie, narrated by Morgan Freeman. the start brings us in powers of ten, out into the universe. From 6:03, we start moving in – to cells, molecules and atoms.

Jump straight to the small bits here (6:03). Biology class will use it too, as we look into measurement and microscopy.

This is why we love Science.

The Symphony of Science

Symphony of Science

Thanks to Bing (the encyclopedic student, not the search engine) for showing me this. The perfect post-exam chillout!

The Symphony of Science is a musical project headed by John Boswell, designed to deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form.

It mashes TED Talks, Carl Sagan and autotune into quite the experience. Let The Ode to the Brain mess with your grey matter:

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