Author Archives: Noel Jackson

Noel Jackson

About Noel Jackson

Hi, I’m the Head of Education at Life and I am insanely curious (as well as curiously insane) about most things that make the universe tick. I love science and maths because they are the best way to explain and model the world we live in.

Positively Perfect Pancakes

Who doesn’t like pancakes? The combination of comfort food base and easily customisable toppings makes them irresistible and helps maintain one of the few remaining links to the seasonal cycle of traditions and customs outside of Christmas and Easter.

Pancake Day is more properly called Shrove Tuesday. Shrove is the past tense of shrive, the action of being forgiven for one’s sins.… Read more

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Put your New Year celebrations on hold, just for a second

Are you looking forward to seeing in the New Year? Well, you will have to wait a bit longer than you may have expected. A leap second will be added at midnight on 31 December 2016 to keep atomic clocks in sync with the Earth’s rotation.

Universal Coordinated Time is based on super-accurate atomic clocks and it is extremely regular.… Read more

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Cheers to Louis Pasteur!

As you eat another helping of the never-ending turkey which seems destined to last all the twelve days of Christmas and pop the cork on yet another bottle of plonk, remember Louis Pasteur who was born on 27 December 1822. His work on fermentation, spoilage, decay and disease laid the foundations for our modern understanding of microbiology…

Prior to Pasteur, people had strange ideas about what caused the fermentation of wine and beer.… Read more

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The psychology of colour

What is your favourite colour? Perhaps more importantly, are there any colours you detest? The colours you like and dislike say a lot about you.

Red rose

My favourite colour is bright pillar box red. Red is supposed to be the most emotionally intense colour and a red environment is known to increase blood pressure, appetite and motor skills.… Read more

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Bear Necessities

Mother bear and her two cubs in a Finnish forest

Brown bear

Here’s a quiz question for you. How many different species of bear are there?

I know you’re going to be smart and dismiss koala bears as a marsupial with superficially bear-like characteristics. You might also remember that giant pandas are now officially recognized as members of the Ursidae (bear) family.… Read more

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Look out for the big Red Planet this week..

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

“The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one” he said.

In H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds Mars gets bigger in the sky as a prelude to invasion by horrific mechanical tripod aliens. So as Mars makes its closest approach to Earth for over a decade on 30 May 2016, should we be worried?Read more

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We hope you won’t be wearing gloves this leap year

29 FebruaryWatch out for women wearing gloves on 1 March this year.. they may be hiding the fact that their proposal was turned down on 29 February.

There’s enormous mythology around the extra day at the end of February that we celebrate every fourth year. The rarity of leap days makes them special but why are they included in the calendar at all?Read more

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A Sloe Winter Cocktail

Prunus SpinosaThe supermarkets are full of festive fare and are keen to sell us a variety of potions that can be hard to obtain at other times of the year. One of these is sloe gin, a curiously English concoction that doesn’t get the wider airing it deserves.

Sloe gin is simple to make; you just take gin and sloes and add sugar to taste.… Read more

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Respect the Sprout!

Brussels sprouts

Have you noticed how several advertisers have mistakenly tried to influence the public by assuming that no-one likes sprouts? Silly isn’t it because, for many, the most important bits of Christmas dinner are the twin combination of tasty bite-sized morsels provided by well-cooked Brussels sprouts and pigs in blankets.

Sprouts are a domesticated variety of the wild cabbage which grows on limestone and chalk cliffs by the sea.… Read more

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The Mystery of the Floating Ice Cube

IciclesIt’s the season of frozen windscreens, Christmas cocktails and, of course, Skating@Life. But as we move towards the coldest time of the year, have you ever stopped to think about how amazing a material ice is?

As you swirl your Christmas Cosmo, look at the ice. It’s floating. Most substances contract as they solidify and their molecules pack together in an ordered way.… Read more

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