Science Review 2012 – Top 100 science stories: Nos 40-36

11 Dec 2012

Online vs classroom learning

We continue our countdown of Ireland’s top science and innovation stories of 2012. It was the year Dublin became the European City of Science and major scientific breakthroughs occurred in every field.

During four days in July, international scientists, policy-makers and business leaders, as well as the general public, converged on the Euroscience Open Forum in Dublin, the highlight in a year full of science and innovation events, such as Science Week, Nanoweek, and Engineers Week.

Most notable during 2012, however, is the impact young people in Ireland have been making in innovation. James Whelton’s CoderDojo movement has gone international, student Paddy Mulcahy won the Irish leg of the 2012 James Dyson award, Mark Kelly and Eric Doyle, this year’s overall winners at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, also scooped another top award at the EUCYS, and teenager Joanne O’Riordan, who has no limbs, gave a speech to global leaders at a United Nations conference for Girls in ICT Day on how technology has changed her life.

To celebrate a year that also included great research, discoveries and partnerships, has dedicated this month to the top 100 most popular science and innovation stories of 2012. Our countdown continues below.

Painting of HMS Beagle

40 – Charles Darwin fossils found in ‘old cabinet’ in new online exhibit

Fossils, which had been missing for 165 years, including some collected by naturalist Charles Darwin, have been found in an ‘old cabinet’ by paleontologist Dr Howard Falcon-Lang in the British Geological Survey. The fossils have been photographed are now available for public viewing via a unique online museum exhibit.

Falcon-Lang, who is part of the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, inadvertently stumbled upon the fossils.

Lego Turing machine

39 – Celebrate Alan Turing’s 100th birthday with the Lego Turing machine (video)

Were he still alive today, Alan Turing would be celebrating his 100th birthday. To mark the occasion, and Alan Turing Year 2012, two Dutch software engineers created a Turing machine completely out of Lego.

A mathematician and cryptanalyst, Turing is widely regarded as the father of computer science, particularly for devising the Turing machine, a simple device that could simulate the logic of any computer algorithm.

The hypothetical Turing machine consists of a device that can modify a strip of tape according to an input table of rules – an action which illustrates the basic functions of a CPU.

Large Hadron Collider tunnel

38 – CERN to reveal more about its hunt for Higgs boson particle

Has the elusive ‘God particle’ finally been found? Physicists around the globe were waiting for CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, to divulge its latest update regarding the hunt for the Higgs boson.

Back in February, CERN announced it would be running the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) with a beam of energy of 4 TeV this year – 0.5 TeV higher than in 2010 and 2011.

The optimisation of the LHC was to determine this year whether the Higgs boson exists or not.

Medical R&D

37 – Cook Medical invests €16.5m in Limerick R&D operation

The largest privately owned medical device company in the world, Cook Medical, is to invest up to €16.5m over four years in a new R&D operation in Limerick.

Established in Limerick in 1996, Cook Medical’s Irish operation has grown from eight employees to more than 630, becoming one of the leading medical device employers in the country.

This new R&D investment will focus on two projects: the establishment of a state-of-the-art research and development laboratory and enhancement of Cook Ireland’s position as a global design centre for the development of self-expanding stents and delivery devices.

Online learning

36 – Online vs classroom learning (infographic)

Online learning is more beneficial than traditional books-and-chalkboard learning. That’s the gist of an infographic that compares the two learning styles.

The infographic designed by Ben Arboleda that’s published on compares the two learning styles side by side, offering the positive aspects of online learning and the not-so-positive aspects of traditional learning in the classroom.

The infographic is on to something, though, more and more institutions are adopting e-learning. Just recently, in Newbridge, Co Kildare, for instance, students at Patrician Secondary School posted questions from their classroom PCs using the online TV-streaming service Aertv to the winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Prof Mario Molina, when he delivered a lecture on climate change at Dublin City University.