Year Three Kicks Off in Style

After a nice long summer break, it’s time to knuckle down for the winter 🙂

First up this year is S175 The frozen planet (L1 10pts) and S283 – Planetary science and the search for life (L2 30pts).

The first activity for S175 involves re-watching some of the awesome BBC series Frozen Planet. It’s probably the best start to a module so far, certainly doesn’t feel much like study to me!

Thanks to Tracy Turner from the Facebook group for the image 🙂

Also diving right into the first book of S283, An introduction to the Solar System which contains all kinds of goodies about the planetary structure, volcanism, surface processes and atmospheres. Let’s hope there’s not too much maths involved. I touched upon this subject before in S104 – Exploring science and it kind of fried my mind a little. Calculating the speed and brightness of distant clusters in the universe and then working out the mass of a black hole for one of the TMAs.

The second book is An Introduction to Astrobiology which looks like great fun for the New Year!

Game on!

For that Healthy Glow, Drink Radiation!

The Radium Ore Revigator

I’m currently working my way through ST174 Inside nuclear energy and some of it has been a real eye opener… 🙂

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In the early 1900s, radioactive water was all the rage. Hard to believe smart people could fall for such twaddle–right?

A century ago radioactivity was new, exciting and good for you—at least if you believed the people selling radium pendants for rheumatism, all-natural radon water for vigor, uranium blankets for arthritis and thorium-laced medicine for digestion (you don’t even want to know about the radioactive suppositories).

Today we know that exposing yourself to radiation is a bad idea. Even when radiation is used to treat cancer, its deadliness is what does the work, killing cancer cells at a slightly higher rate than normal cells.

But imagine yourself 100 years ago, before many of the first researchers studying radioactivity had died of cancer or other radiation-induced causes. Electricity had been discovered relatively recently, and it turned out to be perfectly safe in moderation, so why not radiation?


Volcanic Eruptions: a material science starts today

Volcanic eruption at Fimmvörðuhåls
Volcanic eruption at Fimmvörðuhåls

I signed up for this nice little 10 week course a while back on Being totally free and online it’s no surprise that a lot of people signed up. In fact, there are over 10,000 people from all around the world taking it. Don’t you just love the power of free online learning 🙂

The syllabus for the first four weeks is as follows:

Week 1: The Earth as a living planet: The five big extinctions during Phanerozoic times; Volcanic fatalities; Volcanism in the solar system; Volcanism on Earth; The essence of volcanism;

Week 2: The Earth as a living planet; Volcanoes on Earth: magnitudes and landforms; Explosive and effusive volcanism; Videos of Merapi and Etna volcanoes; Volcanic materials; mineralogy and fragment classification; Chemical and mineralogical classification;

Week 3: Structure of molten silicates: Chemical composition; Stability and geological properties (an overview on viscosity/viscoelasticity; density, expansivity/compressibility; Volatiles solubilities, diffusivities, heat capacity, redox equilibria); Structure of molten silicates;

Week 4: Dynamics of molten silicates; Glass and molten silicates; Molar heat, Enthalpy: Strain vs. time; Cooling vs. heating paths; Maxwell relations for viscoelasticity; Resistivity and viscosity; Relaxation times and implications for experiments;

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Summer Study Plan

After a nice relaxing break from study I’m getting stuck back into ST174 Inside nuclear energy, alongside the course above. With just a final EMA due on the 9th September there’s no pressure at all so it should be a nice gentle 6 weeks or so. Then… onto a study free September 🙂


Year three line-up is now complete!

All the modules for my third year of study with the Open University have been booked 🙂

They are:

S175 The frozen planet
Level 1 – 10 Credits – Oct 2013 – Mar 2014

S283 – Planetary science and the search for life
Level 2 – 30 Credits – Oct 2013 – Jun 2014

SXG288 Practical science: Earth and environment
Level 2 – 30 Credits – Feb 2014 – Oct 2014

The Study Planner and the main menu at the top of the page have been updated.

Chile Volcano: Red Alert Issued

The Copahue started spewing ash and gas in December

Chile issues a red alert for the Copahue volcano on the border with Argentina, with evacuation expected to begin shortly.

The nearly 10,000-ft (2,965m) volcano, which sits in the Andes cordillera, straddling the border with Argentina’s Neuquen province, has become increasingly active in recent times.

Chile’s Interior and Security Minister Andres Chadwick said that the increased activity could lead to an eruption and officials will begin evacuating about 2,240 people, or 460 families, within a 25km (15.5 mile) radius soon.

A red alert was last issued for the Copahue volcano in December, when a mile-high cloud of ash was seen billowing out of the crater.

Source: Sky News – Full Article

Study Update – May 2013

Geology cake anyone?

I’ve been ploughing on towards the finish line with S276 – Geology and Book 3 is almost done! I ended up getting a respectable 78% for (the final) TMA03, especially considering I’ve pretty much dragged myself kicking and screaming through both Book 3 and the TMA. While the palaeobiology in the first five or six chapters almost put me off studying full stop, it has picked up a little and I’ve almost enjoyed the last few chapters about graphic logs and environmental processes.

I’m also slowly working my way through the final CMA as well, 20 questions with a deadline of June 4th, then just a few weeks of revision before the big day, the exam on June 13th! I’m managing to block it out right now but I’m sure as it looms closer the nerves will set in. I haven’t done an exam for many years so I can’t say I’m looking forward to it! After that I can take it easy over the summer, just dipping into the little level 1 module, ST174 Inside nuclear energy every once in a while 🙂

In October I’m planning to start my final level 1 module S175 The frozen planet which I’m really looking forward to, it’s based on the award winning BBC series, and my second level 2 module S283 – Planetary science / search for life. I’ll be registering for these at some point in the next few weeks.

Oh, one last thing, I’m heading into Southampton tomorrow morning bright and early for the last tutorial of the module at Southampton Solent University… pretending to be a real student for a few hours 🙂


Study Update – March 2013

The study book for my next module arrived last week – ST174 Inside nuclear energy. I’m looking forward to a change of pace, and topic if I’m honest, and hopefully gain some motivational momentum!

Enthusiasm for Book 3 – Fossils and Sedimentary Rocks (S276 – Geology) and the motivation to study it has hit rock bottom. I haven’t picked up the book for 2 weeks, maybe I’ll get round to it at some point over the long Easter weekend. The main reason being palaeobiology – “the reconstruction of the anatomy and life habits of ancient organisms”.

Now, I understand that I need to know certain details about fossils in order to help identify and date sedimentary rocks and strata but going deep into their biology is not what I signed up for; way too much detail!

Trilobites, as seen in 1916 by the German painter Heinrich Harder.

At this point I was seriously considering just skipping it and TMA 03 and just studying the bits needed for the exam at a later date. However, substitution for the TMA’s doesn’t apply for this module so I’ll have to grind my way through it at some point before the May 7 deadline 😩

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The last level 2 module I planned to do, SXG288 Practical science: Earth and environment, has a final date of Feb 2014 (The Open University are still going through a massive shake-up where older modules are being merged with others to create new modules, or just scrapped). With this in mind, I registered for it and booked my place as I’m guessing it will fill up quite quickly toward the end of the year.

The main reasons I am keen to do SXG288 are the two optional, three-day residential schools in Cumbria and the Northumberland coast. The Open University are scrapping the majority of the residential schools due to budget cuts so they will soon be a thing of the past.

It’s certainly not great preparation for students to complete a science degree and have no practical experience but hey ho…