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Two simple methods to enrich the teaching of molecular genetics

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Stephen Rowcliffe

Extract: A simple string model to demonstrate the importance of DNA gyrase in alleviating the strain due to supercoiling of DNA during replication in prokaryote chromosomes.

Science Note: Intermolecular forces

Issue: March 2017 364

Extract: Many students are unclear about what van der Waals and London forces are if they consult several textbooks. To clarify, van der Waals forces represent the collective term for all types of intermolecular forces, which include London forces. In general, intermolecular forces are forces of attraction between neighbouring molecules. This article outlines the different types.

Science Note: How much gas does a gasholder hold?

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Peter Borrows

Extract: We are pretty good at giving ideas of scale when the objects are about human size: a finger is about 1 cm wide, an arm-stretch is about 1 m, a Smartie weighs about 1 g, a small apple weighs about 100 g and is attracted to the Earth with a force of about 1 N. It is a bit harder when talking about moles.

Science Note: Visualising energy transformations in electric circuits with infrared cameras

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Elisabeth Netzell, Fredrik Jeppsson, Jesper Haglund and Konrad J. Schönborn

Extract: Increasingly affordable visualisation technology brings exciting opportunities for making the invisible appear visible. This can support the teaching and learning of many challenging physics concepts. Hand-held infrared (IR) cameras offer real-time instant visual feedback of temperature changes that correspond to energy transfer and transformations.

Science Note: Investigating the use of Electrolycra

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Catherine Dunn

Extract: The curriculum promotes health and well-being and this activity is an example of how technology is helping us monitor our fitness and therefore encourage a healthy lifestyle (National Curriculum in England KS3, age 11–14; Gas exchange systems and Scottish Curriculum for Excellence SCN 3-12b, age 10–13; the role of technology in monitoring health).

Science Note: The sky hook - a centre of mass illusion

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Frank Harris

Extract: In the UK, centre of mass experiments used to be plentiful and aimed at 12-13 year-old students. Currently, however, the topic of centre of mass and centre of weight seems to have shifted to an older age group (16-16 year-olds) to appear as a standard experiment on finding the centre of mass of an irregular-shaped card and a consideration of equilibrium, stability and toppling.

Ocean Literacy

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Russell Arnott

Extract: Promoted Feature - For the last two years, I have been visiting in schools across the UK and Ireland aiming to teach pupils and teachers about the marine environment. Under the banner of WhaleFest, the world’s largest marine festival, I visit schools and festivals with a life-size inflatable orca (aka a killer whale) aiming to enthuse people about the sea.

Using test data to find misconceptions in secondary science

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Travis T. Fuchs and Mike Arsenault

Extract: Students, as well as teachers, often learn what makes sense to them, even when it is wrong. These misconceptions are a problem. The authors sought a quick, quantitative way of identifying student misconceptions in secondary science. Using the University of Toronto’s National Biology Competition test data, this article presents a method of quickly identifying misconceptions that agree with many facets of the extant misconception literature (ubiquity across subject areas, pervasiveness regardless of question difficulty, and distractive power). Seeking students’ most common wrong answer on a multiple-choice test is found to be a fast, reliable, and data-driven way to identify misconceptions.

What is a chemical element?

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Marten J. ten Hoor

Extract: Contrary to current IUPAC recommendations, the chemical element X should be defined as the nucleus of the X atom. Consequently, different isotopes with their different nuclei belong to different elements, each one with its own physical and chemical properties. This view leads to the conclusion that we no longer have a periodic table of the elements, but a periodic table of isotopes instead.

Touch-initiated reaction of nitrogen triiodide as a template for activation energy classroom discussions

Issue: March 2017 364

Author: Duncan Short

Extract: Activation energies form an energy barrier to a chemical reaction taking place. Simple collision theory, i.e. that particles need to collide to react, would suggest that activation energy is the energy needed to overcome a coulombic barrier provided by the negatively charged electrons contained within energy shells surrounding an atomic nucleus. Deriving activation energy from experiment is usually beyond the school curriculum. What can be demonstrated, however, is an almost barrierless reaction initiated by the slightest touch or vibration for the decomposition of nitrogen triiodide. This spectacular demonstration can be combined with calculations on bond enthalpies to help further understanding.

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