Science home education resources

Elaine Kirk

Super Moderator

from the .
A group of scientists has rediscovered the world's rarest fly in a cave in Kenya, collecting the first "terrible hairy fly" specimen since 1948.
Dr Robert Copeland and fellow dipterist Dr Ashley Kirk-Spriggs found the fly, known as Mormotomyia Hirsuta, in its only known habitat, a cave-like rock cleft in Ukazi Hill east of Nairobi, Kenya.
"The re-discovery of the species, which has been collected on only two occasions before, in 1933 and 1948, has caused excitement in insect museums world-wide," a statement said.
The mission was led by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe), an organisation which aims to reduce poverty and improve health and food security by enhancing tropical African countries' ability to harness their natural resources through the study of insects.
The spider-like fly is described as "strange, due to its relatively large size, the males of which can stretch over one centimetre its long legs and covering of yellow hairs, reduced eyes and its non-functional wings."
"Since Mormotomyia cannot fly, there is a strong possibility that it is really restricted to this tiny habitat," Dr Copeland said.
"If that is the case, it would be wonderful if the entire Ukazi Hill, on which it is found, were declared a national heritage area and given suitable conservation protection," he added.

Elaine Kirk

Super Moderator

From the.
What is a meteor?​
By Nick Collins
With the Geminid space shower expected to light up Britain's night skies next week, here is a run-down of everything you need to know about meteors.
What is a meteor?
A meteor is a meteoroid – or a particle broken off an asteroid or comet orbiting the Sun – that burns up as it enters the Earth's atmosphere, creating the effect of a "shooting star". Meteoroids that reach the Earth's surface without disintegrating are called meteorites.
Where do they come from?
Meteors are mostly pieces of comet dust no larger than a grain of rice. Meteorites are principally rocks broken off asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and can weigh as much as 60 tonnes.
Why can we see them?
When Meteors enter the Earth's atmosphere from outer space, the friction caused by air particles heats them so that they glow, leaving behind them a trail of gas and melted particles as they disintegrate 30 to 60 miles from the ground. Most glow for about a second, but others leave a trail that lasts for several minutes.
Why do they come in showers?
Millions enter the Earth's atmosphere each day but at certain times each year a trail or cluster of meteoroids will arrive at once as Earth passes through the remnants of a comet that passed long ago while orbiting the Sun.
What are they made of?
Meteors are no more than dust and ice from the trail of comets. Meteorites can be "stony", made up of minerals rich in silicon and oxygen, "iron", consisting mainly of iron and nickel, or "stony-iron", a combination of the two

A meteor from the 2009 Geminid meteor shower darts through the constellation of Hydra, close to the star Alphard, as captured by Pete Lawrence. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Observing the 2010 Geminid meteor shower​
Over the coming week the 2010 Geminid meteor shower gets underway, building up to a peak which is expected on the morning of 14 December. I thought now would be an ideal time to repost a few excerpts from the blog post I wrote about the shower last year.

The best time to look for the meteors will be on the night of the 13/14 December. How many you’ll see depends on several factors, such as your local light pollution levels and the cloud cover. Steve Owens has a great post about this here, where he explains how to calculate the number of Geminids you can expect to spot from your viewing location. Meanwhile, here’s what I had to say about the Geminids this time last year:
If you go out over the next few nights and see any meteors you’ll know you’ve spotted a Geminid if it appears to come from a point in the constellation of Gemini. This point is known as the ‘radiant’. The constellation that the radiant is located in gives the meteor shower its name; so the Geminids come from Gemini, the Orionids come from Orion etc.

In terms of where to look, my advice would simply be to look up. Gemini is high in the sky over the next few nights at around 1:30am, and with the Moon out of the way later on in the evening, we’ve got some good observing conditions for this year’s shower. Wrap up warm and sit back in a sun-lounger if you can, as this should stop your neck from getting tired and give you a better, more comfortable, view of the sky.
Good summary of UK financial position 2011

The OBR's report coincides with the publication of new "whole of government accounts" from the Treasury, which include new – and much larger – estimates of the state's long-term commitments, based on treating the government as though it were a business, with assets and liabilities.

The "net present value" of paying public sector pension promises – a way of calculating the cost if they all had to be paid today – had already hit almost 79% of GDP, or £1.1trn, by March 2010, according to the Treasury's calculations.

The price of Labour's private finance initiative – Gordon Brown's favoured method for building new schools, hospitals and infrastructure without the Treasury paying the whole bill up front – is put at £40bn.

Meanwhile, the state's other "contingent liabilities", which the Treasury hopes it will never have to pay, such as guarantees to the crisis-hit banking sector, amount to more than £200bn.

Set against the government's assets, which the Treasury calculates to be worth £759bn, overall public sector liabilities now stand at £1.2trn, or 84.5% of GDP.

Despite these eye-watering estimates, the OBR says the main reason taxpayers must get used to decades of austerity is the rising cost of health care, which will increase from 7.4% of GDP to 9.8% in 2060 and the basic state pension that will cost 7.9% of GDP compared to 5.5% now even without the new flat rate scheme in place.

"Balance sheet measures look only at the impact of past government activity," it says. "They do not include the present value of future spending that we know future governments will wish to undertake, for example maintaining health, education and pension provision.

"Just as importantly, they exclude the public sector's most valuable financial asset: its ability to levy future taxes."


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I really like supercharged e-science as a home curriculum for my challenged girl

I have been homeschooling my granddaughter (except for 2.5 years of disaster trying to put her in public education) for her entire educational career. She is a blessing and a challenge. Due to her disabilities she needs a great deal of hands on and a lot of slow going so traditional systems just don’t work for her. I have searched high and low looking for means to reach her in all arenas and science has been especially challenging. I just want to tell you about a science program that my granddaughter has been using since last November. Supercharged Science is an e-Science Curriculum that has a self-paced program that is perfect for someone like my gal. We have been able to go at a pace that enables her to understand the material while staying interested. She loves the projects. And since they are made mostly from things I have around the house they aren’t costly so we can both enjoy them! The biggest thing for me is that the videos are very easy for my girl to understand even without me having to go over every single word with her. She gets it! And the projects are FUN! A science curriculum that will take my girl right through high school! What more could I ask for??? If you want to check them out their site is at

Elaine Kirk

Super Moderator
Biodigital Human

This app is free in the app store of the

The Biodigital Human app can be found on this link
The BioDigital Human is a 3D platform that simplifies the understanding of anatomy, disease and treatments. Interactive tools for exploring, dissecting, and sharing custom views, combined with detailed medical descriptions provide an unprecedented new visual format to learn about your body.

This app uses the exciting new web standard for 3D - WebGL. At this time not all graphics cards are supported. To verify your computer supports WebGL a quick test is available at:

Please note, the BioDigital Human anatomy and conditions will continue to evolve. Recommendations on what conditions you would like to see are welcome!


I have been asked to circulate this email to our community members on behalf of William Hirst who hopes his science resources may be of interest.

I am not home educating, but I do have an interest in my local branch to whom I give occasional presentations.

I was a teacher of Science in main stream education for over twenty years, with a major interest in developing methods for reducing difficulties caused by the use of jargon in Science.

I therefore wrote and published William's Words in Science - The JARGON BUSTER ; a dictionary that has been built for ease of use, with the advantages given on the attachment.

Your book is Excellent! It is really educative and rich book for everybody AIY

The dictionary has been brilliant. I've had people picking it up just to thumb through it and saying 'I never knew that!' JL

I'm really impressed with the quality of it's writing and production, and have already used it for reference several times. However, to do so, I had to go and steal it back from my 12-year-old son who was utterly delighted when I showed him, saying it was 'exactly what he needed’ GW

William's Words is a superb resource for any learner of Science, not only defining 13,000 science words and phrases, but also providing historical development and clear explanations for fifty of the great ideas of Science; individual copies cost £20 (including a protective plastic cover and p&p), but prices reduce for higher numbers eg order ten for £14.50 each ( total cost of £145 )

I know that books are rarely bought on an email, or by advertising! But I do enjoy teaching, and have recently given presentations at HESFes, and at my local (Cambridge) branch of home educators - these presentations concurrently give me the opportunity to entertain young people, to advertise my book, and for people to examine the book.

I would happily give one (or more) presentations - eg the Human Body Project (attached) is a fun way of learning about the organs of the body; discussing objects found in the day & night sky; making fossils; or magnetism & electricity - to any group that is within a reasonable distance of Cambridge.

The last two attachments are my latest development of ideas for increasing the familiarity of the words of Science - please use them and see how learning Science can be fun.

Best Wishes,

William Hirst
Links to the attachments:

Advantages of William's Words in Science
The Human Body Project
Cells, digestion, environment, fit and healthy, inheritance, microbes
Ecology, photsynthesis, plants as food, reproduction, respiration, variation
Thanks for the BioDigital Human Elaine. Love it.
That might have helped me pass my anatomy exam.
But that would have meant that I might have succeeded in becoming a doctor, which would have been a huge negative for the rest of humanity :)


I've just spent a pleasant hour playing SpaceChem which is a bit of chemistry and a lot of logical reasoning. There's a free demo version, or you can pay more for the full thing.


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