My Scottish Space School Experience

SSSLOGO_SMBonjour fellow bloggers and blog viewers, I just came back from a fantastic residential week at Scottish Space School and I just thought it would be great to share this great experience with you all.

The Scottish Space School, as I mentioned several months before in a “thoughts” post, is a residential week aimed at students in their second last year of high school who are interested in pursuing a career in Engineering, Space Exploration or something along these lines, and is situated in the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. This year I was one of the lucky 100 students to be selected from over 500 applicants based around Scotland to attend the week running from 11th to 16th June 2017.

The week-long programme included different engineering workshops, lectures from senior NASA guests, talks from people who worked in the Space industry, fun social events and many more.

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Morphine and its cousins

 

Quinine

The term ‘alkaloids’ may be unfamiliar to most of us but if I start naming some examples which fall into this group of ‘nitrogenous bases secondary metabolites’, you will know what I mean. nicotine2 Some of the big names include morphine, quinine, strychnine, nicotine etc. basically a continuous list of –ine’s. The thing to note is that though the alkaloids were attributed to pharmacologically active bases derived from plants however, animals (including us!), insects and microbes also produce them.

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How Small Can You Go in Scale?

After the many ramblings I made regarding Dark Matter previously, I want to turn around and think about Baryonic Matter again. Ordinary Matter is something that physicists know much more about than the mysterious Dark Matter and Dark Energy, even though in reality they do make up more than 95% of our known Universe. We are more knowledgeable about Baryonic Matter because of its presence all around us, after all, it is everything we can see and detect: from forms of life, elements in the Earth’s crust and mantle, buildings, cars, the Earth, the Sun, all of the stars… you get the idea.

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Now, the stuff that makes up the matter. Firstly what comes to our mind may be elements, which are a table of 100 odd substances that are often called the “primary constituents of matter”. These elements can be identified through their chemical properties and are placed in the Periodic table in order of increasing atomic number (the number of protons in its atom’s nucleus).

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Atoms are another level down from the elements of the periodic table, which distinguishes different types of atoms. Atoms themselves is another study on its own. In the early 20th Century, Rutherford and a couple other physicists discovered an awful lot that directly correlates to our modern understanding of the atom through an experiment – firing alpha particles at a piece of gold leaf.

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Death and Transplanting Life

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For many, the heart is synonymous with passion, personality which is literally at the heart of a person. We even carelessly use the phrase “broke my heart”, however, what does happen when our thick- muscular pump of an organ truly breaks down? The assumed answer would be death; no heart beat=no longer living…right? Well, in reality, a stopped heart can restart, there is no true universal rule in death determination. You are dead when the doctor says you are dead.

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Dark Matter #2: Gravitational Lensing

heic1506e.jpgA couple of months ago I talked about a piece of evidence supporting the existence of Dark Matter which is the fact that the stars in the outskirts of galaxies were seen to move at a similar pace as galaxies near the galactic core, defying the norm of the Keplerian Decline.

Recap: Dark Matter makes up roughly 25% of the Universe, so it is five times more prevalent than ordinary Baryonic Matter. Physicists gave it the name Dark Matter not because of it having some mysterious evil property or anything of that sort, but because it simply does not interact with Electromagnetic Radiation. I agree Physicists are a creative bunch.

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Renewables…you say?

Most of the energy we use to power technology come from finite sources which are not sustainable. This energy which may be in the form of either fossil fuels, coal or even nuclear fuels and so on will eventually be used up. However renewable sources such as solar power will not run out…..until the sun runs out of hydrogen fuel but that’s another story.

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Even my trusty fx- 85GT PLUS uses solar power.

We are able to harness the light energy radiated by the sun by the used of solar cells. A solar cell is an electronic device made of semiconductors which exhibit the photovoltaic effect to convert light energy into electrical energy. Semiconductors are materials which lie between conductors and insulators. A conductor is a material which is composed of atoms in which electrons are easily freed from the nuclei. Even though it is able to form a current, it remains electronically neutral as there are the same number of positive protons and negative free electrons. An insulator, on the other hand, is a material which is composed of atoms which hold more tightly onto their electrons so they have no free electrons like conductors. Current is a measure of the rate of flow of charge through a material, with the electrons being the charge carriers transporting energy across a circuit.  Continue reading

On Polaroid Filters – Brief

polaroid5_zps7a198bc5Light is weird. Light or Electromagnetic Waves are well, waves. They are a result of a changing oscillating electric field and a magnetic field. Sometimes we call them Photons, massless high-speed subatomic particles, coming in packets called Quanta. Wave-particle duality is only the brief introduction of the enormous and extraordinary area within Physics called Quantum Theory.

A slinky is a nice little demonstration of how light travels. Light is a transverse wave so it vibrates perpendicular to the direction of energy travel. In Third Year of High School, my Physics teacher used a slinky as an example to illustrate this feature of a transverse wave and also the other, longitudinal wave, which is a wave in which its vibrations are parallel to the direction of travel. Two people held the slinky at the two ends and one begins to vibrate the slinky coils left to right.

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Thoughts #9 – Scottish Space School

As you can probably infer from the title of this thoughts post, I was recently notified that I had made a successful application to the Scottish Space School programme. To be accepted onto the programme has been a dream of mine for the past two years as a former student from my school described her intriguing experience.

The Scottish Space School programme is designed for students into Science and currently progressing through the second last year of high school.It is a week-long Space-themed residential at the University of Strathclyde and features a set of lectures given by leading researchers, laboratory activities and workshops supported by NASA astronauts and engineers. On top of that, at the end of the week, 10 students are selected to go visit NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.

I am incredibly excited and grateful to have been offered a place and hopefully on the programme I’m able to meet a bunch of like-minded people who are as fascinated about the cosmos as me!

Till next time,

Susan

Thoughts #8 – On NASA’s Exoplanet Discovery ‘Beyond Our Solar System’

I heard the news that NASA was going to announce a breakthrough discovery a couple of days ago and as an astrophysics enthusiast, I was extremely excited.

Today, 22nd February 2017, NASA announces the discovery of seven new exoplanets orbiting a star – Trappist-1 only 40 light years away. Not only is this a record on its own, the content of the discovery is as or more so intriguing. Yes, we are talking about these as planets that could potentially support life. Each and every one of them are rocky resembling the inner four planets within our solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, and all have been claimed to have the possibility of supporting liquid water on their surfaces. The discovery is not only astonishing in this essence but also of the fact that Trappist-1 is rather small and dim allowing them to be temperate, thus perhaps be home to life.

Even though only three out of seven of the planets lie within the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ of the star system, this discovery opens up more pathways for interstellar exploration into these worlds, enables further research on their atmospheres and gives us a fairly good chance of looking for clues about life out with Earth.

Till next time,

Susan

 

 

Exciting enzymes?

So…I haven’t written a sole biology blog post in such a long time so I thought I would share some of the knowledge covered in class, more specifically on exciting enzymes.


Enzymes are biological catalysts made by living organisms which speed up chemical reactions. Each cell in our bodies is like a factory, constantly using up raw materials to turn them into useful products and also resulting in waste products. These reactions are usually slow if unaided by either heat or enzymes. This can be annoying in everyday life, for example, delayed respiration rates which rely heavily on enzymes. The food we eat in turn become the energy we use (vastly simplified). Continue reading