Reaching for the Stars


My friend Ginny was invited to a think-tank on how to popularize multi-wave astronomy (no – don’t run away, this blog is not about that – although it is really interesting stuff) a few days ago, and had lunch with one of the other participants who happened to have a disability.

Not wanting to offend the lady in the slightest she asked a bit hesitantly… ‘Um, what is the politically correct way to describe somebody who cannot see?”

The lady promptly responded “Blind!”

Thereafter a lovely conversation followed, with the lady, Wanda, giving some insights (excuse the pun) into one of the challenges of being blind.
But let’s clarify something first. The lady is Dr Wanda, and she’s an astrophysicist, who, amongst other things, really enjoys developing interesting lesson plans to teach kids about astrophysics. She has not allowed being blind to restrict her in the slightest and continues to reach for the stars – literally. Except Wanda listens to them instead of looking at them!

She reckons the most irritating thing is when somebody sends her a .pdf file to read. PDF stands for “portable document format” and it’s a way of saving a document from any application into a format that most systems can read – unless you are blind.

Wanda explained that her special software that “reads” the document cannot comprehend a .pdf file. It just picks up random words and strings them together. Obviously this could lead to major confusion. She gave us a hysterical example that went something like the “The moon was in the bathroom exploding.”

The numbers at the table swelled with Alfred from Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown (Jozi) joining the ranks. Wanda asked Alfred what his favourite exhibit was. His answer was the one that explained sound waves. Of course she did not leave it there – she had him explain to her just how he got the concept across to the people visiting Sci-Bono.

Initially Alfred waved his hands around a lot, which Wanda could not see, but he quickly got the hang of it and used his words – very simply and effectively to explain how sound waves work.

We all take many things for granted and our sight is one of them.

By the way – how often do people check the toys that their young children play with for sharp bits they could potentially stick into their eye (or somebody else’s) by mistake? Double check that toy box please, just to make sure.

Reach for the stars people – don’t let anything hold you back.

Sibo

Science really is fun

It is no secret that I am fond of sciencey stuff. The other day I found out about a programme that is so exciting I just had to share it with you all.

Well – come to think of it – it is particularly aimed at girls.  Sorry boys! This is not really for you. But I suppose there is nothing stopping you checking out the videos of the cool experiments and trying them out yourself.

The programme is called the “I Am Science” project and it combines cool science activities, video and digital learning.  Three things in one project!

Wait! Don’t get discouraged and think it sounds too clever. It’s actually a lot easier than you think.

The whole point of this programme is to get girls interested in science and to change mind-set around the thinking that science is too hard for girls to do.   Did you know that only around 30% of the researchers in the world are women? We seriously need to change those statistics.

Science is not hard and we can do it.

This is how easy it is to participate in this fabulous project.

  • Visit LevelUp http://mylevelup.mobi/ and register.
  • Click the drop down menu on the home page and choose ‘I Am Science’.
  • There you can just watch videos and do quizzes related to the videos. For every right answer you are rewarded with digital tokens which are redeemable on the mobisite for data and airtime.

Ah hah! I saved the best for last… never mentioned the fact that you can win airtime and data if you ace those quizzes. How cool is that?

But even cooler is the fact that you can watch those little (they really are little – not much more than a minute each) videos and then you can go and wow your friends and family by doing a cool experiment YOURSELF – like holding fire in your hand, or poking a sosastie stick through a balloon without it popping – because you will have learnt how to do it (safely of course).

Seriously – I kid you not. Go check it out.  Every week a new quiz is published on the home page of LevelUp so it does not get boring either.

If you want to know more about the whole project – visit the website. https://www.iamscienceproject.com/ . You could maybe even get your school involved and make your own video.

Have fun!

Sibo

Science is Seriously Super!

It is time to celebrate National Science Week again!  This is an initiative that is run nationally and is funded by the Department of Science and Technology. The programmes are managed and co-ordinated by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Awareness (SAASTA) but it is actually implemented by many different service providers.

If you want to find out more about this, please do go and visit the SAASTA webpage .

The theme this year is “Advancing Science Tourism”. There are all sorts of exciting demonstrations, activities and exhibitions happening all over the country.

On the 5th of August – in the Springs Mall – there is an expo on The Science of Paint! It is on from 10am to 5pm and is open to the general public – you don’t have to book or anything – you can just rock up.

This is what you can expect…

Take a walk through the history of paint and learn how the processes have changed overthe years. We will start with Rock Art move on to natural dyes and pigments then oils and water colours and finally on to synthetic paint.

During the activity you will get an opportunity to test the methods of making paint with the end goal of making art. Engaging, fun, and messy – come join us!

For more info you can contact Anthea Moys (info@thecolouredcube.co.za) Tel: 011 021 1177

Sounds like a lot of fun to me – and best of all – it’s free!

Of course, although National Science Week starts on the 5th August and runs for a week – the world is full of science that is all around us, and can be seen 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year…. you get what I mean!

We’ve done little science experiments in this blog before – but if you are keen on having some serious fun at home go and visit Arvind Gupta’s website . He is Ginny’s friend and shows you how to make fabulously fun toys from trash (so you don’t need any fancy stuff) that all work on scientific principles.

Of course you can always visit a science centre too. Those are tremendous fun and are open all year round. Not only during National Science Week.

Lastly – if you want to be a space tourist – you can visit our website and read Sibo in Space free for the next week or so.

Science is super!

Sibo

Consider a career in Science!

The 16th of February was International Day of Science for Women and Children. People tend to think that science is only for clever people – but actually – it is all around us and we are all doing some sort of science in one way or another each and every single day. In honour of this day – you can read “Sibo Mixes Things Up” – my story book about chemistry – it will be free to read on the website until the end of the month.

Nowadays girls are actively encouraged to pursue careers in science and technology. There are so very many interesting fields that you can go into, it is almost mind boggling.

We’ve been talking about planning, imagination and initiative over the past few weeks and you are going to need all of these things if you want to go into the science field.

SAASTA Observatory in Johannesburg also offers cool programmes for learners, teachers and members of the public. They have all sorts of exciting things to make you look at Physics in a completely different way. Check out their website for more information.

Nanotechnology is the way of the future as well.  I bet many people don’t even know what nanotechnology is. “Sibo Sizes Things Up” is all about nano – one of these days we’ll make that a free read on the website too! Stay tuned!

Remember – a safe bet is to always take maths as one of your subjects. Maths is one of those things that you sometimes feel like dropping because it seems a bit hard or not really necessary. In fact – it’s very necessary for lots of careers. If you don’t have matric maths there are some doors that are so firmly shut there is no easy way to open them again.

I mentioned while ago that science centres can help with career guidance. Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Jozi has a very awesome career guidance centre and it’s free. You can just walk-in and find out about jobs and careers that you never even dreamed of. However, for career assessments and career counselling they do prefer if you make an appointment. It’s a professional service and they don’t want to you to be disappointed if you arrive at the centre and the staff are all busy.  Call (011) 639 8450/8476/8479.

Last but not least – you can always go and visit a science centre like Sci-Bono in Newtown or Sci-Enza in Pretoria to have an enormous amount of fun and get you into a sciencey frame of mind!

Science rocks!

Sibo

Pledge a Book Please!

We all know that South Africa has terrible road safety stats. 

The Minister of Transport Mrs Diplou Peters is always saying that children need to learn about road safety.  It’s true. They do. The Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga is always saying that children must read more. That’s true too – they should.

Here we are… pleasing two ministers with one book!

Sibo Looks Right is a book that contains all the rules of the road, including cycling – in a fun, easy to read manner.

Best of all – you don’t have to take our word for it – you can click on the link and read the book for yourself. Free!

Our plan is to get as many companies and people to pledge books – once we have reached our target of 3000 books (we’d love to get more than this too) we will ask people to honour their pledges and deposit the corresponding amount so that Lets Look Publishers can print these books and we can distribute them to the children.

Science Centres in South Africa have kindly agreed to help with distributing the books.

Here’s the crunch – we’d really like to do this BEFORE Easter!

So we need you to dash off and pledge a book – or two – or as many as you want to.

Challenge other people to pledge books too.

Of course, if you pledge more than 50 books  we can put your name/logo in the back of the book. If you pledge 1000 books – we can put your logo in the front of the book. There are great advertising and marketing aspects to sponsoring books.

If you read Sibo Looks Right you will see that Nash Nissan sponsored a large quantity of money towards our initial crowdfunding campaign and so their logo was featured in the front of the book. If you look on the back cover – there are more logos and names – these are all the lovely people who helped make this book happen in the first place.

Now we need to print more books and get them out to schools and children – FREE.

Let’s make this happen. Please! Pledge now.

A million thanks

Sibo

PS – The Sibo Series is already being read in schools and libraries around the country. In fact, The North West Province Education Department has just ordered more than 500 each of 10 Sibo titles and they are being delivered as we speak!

Cool Sciency Stuff!

Sibo's Experiment

Once again it is that time of year – National Science Week. Some of you might remember that I’m always saying you should go visit your local science centre. If you can’t get your teacher to take the whole class, then ask your parental agents to take you. They’re really very cool places, where not only do you have loads of fun, but you also learn some very interesting stuff.

So I thought I’d share some crazy facts and maybe you’d like to do a little science experiment all of your own at home.

First the facts. Did you know…

  • Your tongue is the strongest muscle in your body.
  • Earth is the only planet not named after a god.
  • There are no naturally occurring blue foods, even blueberries are purple!
  • Just like finger prints, everybody’s tongue is different.
  • A “jiffy” is the scientific name for 1/100th of a second.
  • You breathe on average about 5 million times a year.
  • Cockroaches can live several weeks with their heads cut off. (Eeergh – that’s really gross.)

 Now for the experiment…

Its winter time and we all enjoy a bit of heat when we are cold – right. Heat is an important form of energy. It is produced in our own bodies as we break down and use the food we eat. We can release stored heat energy by burning fuels such as wood or coal.

Heat can move from one substance to another in three different ways:

  • By convection. (Convection takes place when heated molecules move from one place to another, taking the heat with them.)
  • By radiation. (Radiation is rays of energy – the Sun’s rays travel through space and reach us as heat and light energy.)
  • By conduction. (Conduction is the way heat spreads through a solid or a liquid object – metal is a faster conductor than glass.)

Maybe get an adult to help you here – or at least ask if you can have 3 peas and a teaspoon of butter!

Take a metal spoon, a wooden ruler and a plastic spatula. Stick a frozen pea to one end of each using a bit of butter. Put the other ends in a jug of hot water.

Heat is conducted from the water up each object, melting the butter and making the pea fall off. Which one do you think will be the best conductor?

Science makes the world go round!

Sibo

Some tips to help you study for the exams!

Sibo studying

If you are writing matric – then this is probably too late for you – but for the rest of us, it might help.

  • Do some exercise before you write you exam – according to scientists, exercise boosts brain and memory power. They reckon 20 minutes of exercise before you write your exam can help a lot – try hula hooping!
  • If you read something out loud (okay – don’t try this in the library where you are supposed to be quiet) you are 50% more likely to remember it, than if you read it quietly to yourself.
  • One of the best ways to make sure that you have learned and understood something – is to explain it to somebody else. Ask one of your parental agents, a sibling or a friend to hear you out.
  • Create mental connections – Steve Jobs famously said “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something”. Worth a try hey?
  • Draw diagrams to help you see the information. This creates a visual memory in your mind – which is easier to remember than just words.
  • Make yourself flash cards for a quick memory buzz. Then you can quickly test your knowledge of key concepts, definitions, quotes and formulas using these flashcards. You can look at them when you wake up in the morning – or while you eat your breakfast.
  • Take short study breaks. After 45-50 minutes – take a 10 minute break.  If you study for longer than this your focus is diminished.
  • Strangely or not – they recommend changing the places where you study. Don’t always sit at your desk or the dining room table. Sometimes you will learn more if you go and sit under a tree outside!
  • Do not stay up all night before an exam studying. Getting a good night’s sleep will reinforce all the stuff you have learnt during the day.
  • Study in a group. This can help you gain extra knowledge or insights.
  • Reward yourself for studying with a treat. For every so many pages you read (out loud) you can allocate yourself one smartie (because… you are becoming a smartie pants of course!).

Good luck in the exams!

Sibo

 

Cool career of the week: chemistry teacher

A chemistry teacher can inspire students to explore chemistry by challenging them to create an effective, eco-friendly cleaning solution.

Cool Careers

I was thinking…  if we are going to be able to study further – then we have to know what to study. Right?  In order to know what to study – we need to know what type of career or job we want to do. We only have one life and a lot of it is spent at work – so it’s important that we like what we are doing.

Some people figure this out early in life – they love animals and want to be a vet. Or they have a passion for planes and want to be a pilot. Some kids are hell-bent on becoming a world renown surfer or soccer player or rugby player.  I know one kid who is only 6 and can tell you without a shadow of doubt he wants to be a palaeontologist. Most people can’t even say the word – let alone know what it means.

However, many of us don’t have a cooking clue what we want to do when we are big. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s also okay to change your mind from time to time when you learn new exciting stuff and realise there are different opportunities attached that could form potential career choices.

The main thing is to be careful that you make sure you have the right subjects at school.

How? I hear you howl. How do we take the right subjects if we don’t know what they are?

True – it’s tricky!

A safe bet is to always take maths as one of your subjects. Maths is one of those things that one sometimes feels like dropping because it seems a bit hard or not really necessary. In fact – it’s very necessary for lots of careers. If you don’t have matric maths there are some doors that are so firmly shut there is no easy way to open them again.

I found out the other day that science centres can help with career guidance. Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Jozi has a very awesome career guidance centre and it’s free. You can just walk-in and find out about jobs and careers that you never even dreamed of. However, for career assessments and career counselling they do prefer if you make an appointment. It’s a professional service and they don’t want to you to be disappointed if you arrive at the centre and all the staff are already busy. adminofficecareer@sci-bono.co.za  or call (011) 639 8450/8476/8479.

Check it out.

Sibo

Career of the week: palaeontologist

Meaning: a scientist who learns about the forms of life that existed in previous geologic periods, mainly by studying fossils.

Example: My friend James wants to dig up dinosaur bones and find out more about them.

James

Fun visit to the zoo

Sibo at the zoo

Last Sunday we went to the Zoo – right in the centre of Pretoria. What a fun day it was too!

We got up nice and early and took our dog for a walk first. Then we had breakfast so that our tummies were full and we had lots of energy. We drove – but you can also take the Gautrain and get off at Pretoria station and then you can get a bus that drops you off right outside the zoo.

It costs R55.00 for kids and R85.00 for adults. It’s really good value for money because you can stay there all day. If you are clever you can take a picnic with you – there are lots of grassy places where you can sit and have a snack or a meal when you are tired of walking and looking at all the animals. You can even braai.

It’s a good idea to wear comfy shoes because it’s huge. Huger than huge in fact. Sometimes I feel sad to see all those wild animals stuck in cages, but mostly the cages are big and the animals don’t look unhappy. It’s not like one of those awful places when the poor creatures sit in little concrete boxes and they hardly have space to move.

The National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria is  an awesome place. It’s also a bit like a science centre because there are notice boards that give you all sorts of different information about the animals, like where they come from and what they eat.

We took the cable car and zoomed right up to the top of the hill. Sjoe! But it was high and I was a bit scared. It was amazing to look down on all the animals.

The lions and the tigers were magnificent. I was very glad that there are big fences because I swear that one of the tigers thought I looked like a tasty little snack.

We saw all sorts of animals, birds and reptiles – kangaroos, giraffes, hippos, a rhino, lots of different types of buck, monkeys, apes, baboons, snakes, crocodiles, lizards and many brilliant birds with different colours. There were zebra, leopards and elephants too. My favourite was the bear. He looked all big and cuddly. He just wallowed – half in and half out of his water pool and watched all the visitors. Just like the people were in the zoo – instead of him.

Oh! Wait! Silly me – we were in the zoo too, weren’t we?

Tell your parental agents you want to go to the zoo – for a family outing, a school outing or for your next birthday. It’s such fun.

Until next week!

Sibo

Sibo’s Science Story Competition

Sibo smiling

National Science Week runs from the 1 – 8 of August. The theme this year is International Year of Light and Light Based Technologies. This is an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology. The idea behind it is to underline that science really is for everybody – young and old alike – and it is all around us. Various institutions – not only science centres – around the country celebrate this event by holding different kinds of activities. There are also expos in shopping malls, special talks, workshops and many other events.

I am also celebrating.  I’m having a science story competition and you are invited to write a short story using the “cool words” that appear at the end of her weekly blog in the African Reporter. Don’t worry if you missed them – you can also visit her real blog  http://blog.sibo.co.za/ and find them there (plus the meanings).

The winning stories will be printed in the Springs Advertiser and African Reporter and will also feature on Sibo’s website and blog (http://www.sibo.co.za) . First prize will win an autographed set of Sibo’s Story Books (12 titles). Second prize wins 6 Sibo titles (of your choice) and third prize wins 2 Sibo titles (of your choice).

Rules

  • The story needs to have a science slant to it – using at least 15 of the 21 cool words.
  • It should not be more than 500 words
  • Both adults and children are welcome to enter.
  • Entries must reach us on or before Friday 14th August 2015.
  • You can email them to sibo@sibo.co.za .
  • Fax them to 086-242 2187
  • Or send them via post to :

Sibo’s Science Story Competition
Postnet Suite 180
Private Bag x1
The Willows
0041

Cool words: array; galvanize, dollop, follicle, discombobulated, argle-bargle, chuffed, acne, photonics, snigger, dank, tolerance, agitated, nook, dodgy, miffed, pow-wow, skulk, vamoose, vim, heebie-jeebies.

You’ll either have to use a dictionary if you don’t know what any of these words mean… or trawl through all the blogs. If you find a blog without a cool word – it was written in the holidays. We don’t do cool words in the holidays.

Good luck!

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