Friday 27 November 2009


You may remember that I have one or two "issues" with the official textbook available for GCSE Science. Now, being a biology lecturer, all my stuff is at the front of the book, ahead of chemistry and physics (I like to kid myself that it's not just an alphabetical order...). So I rarely have cause to flick through the back of the book. Until I met with one of my private tutees last week...

A fairly benign question, yes? You may need to click through to read the text. All very relevant, could link all three disciplines, highlights a current issue. Good good. But then you look at the next page...

See what they did there? It's Jay and Silent Bob in a GCSE textbook!! Clerks is older than some of the students! Who on Earth under the age of 18 is actually aware of Jay and Silent Bob? Why isn't Silent Bob silent? And does anyone else think that the average GCSE science lesson could be improved by the addition of Jay's rap:

Your thoughts please. And thank you everyone who offered advice on good programmes for my prospective palaeontology student, you've been immensely helpful.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Happy Origin Day!

On this day 150 years ago, Charles Darwin's most famous book, "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" was published.

To "celebrate" this occasion I spent five minutes trying to deflect an argument from a colleague I shall charitably refer to as being "uninformed" telling me that "Darwin was wrong". There is a time and a place to go all Dawkins on someone's ass, and honestly that moment was not it. But a later rant to a fellow Biology lecturer helped a great deal, I can tell you!

It's also Zach's birthday, so you should go over there and wish him many happy returns.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Suggested University Courses

Here's a question for the numerous British university-based readers for this blog. I am absolutely tickled because one of my students wants to study palaeontology at university. And it's because of me. Is that not the best thing ever?

So, to give my new favourite student the best chances, I'm helping out by suggesting a few universities to apply to. Said student is doing Biology A-level but not Chemistry or Maths. This probably excludes some of the big Natural Sciences programmes (and if I recall correctly the closing date for Oxbridge applications has already passed).

My thoughts are that he would be well suited to a straight Palaeobiology degree: Portsmouth and Birmingham look ace. Royal Holloway's Geology & Biology degree is also a good bet too.

But this is where I get stuck. He could do with 5-6 prospective universities, so more are needed! I don't think a pure Geology degree is right for him, no matter how much Dinosaurology he might be able to do. So I'm thinking of suggesting some Zoology or Biology programmes with good links with vert palaeo. I just don't have a clue which universities might offer them! Glasgow? Bristol? Birkbeck as a full-time student?

All suggestions appreciated!

Tuesday 10 November 2009

End Of An Era

I learned last night that Professor Barrie Rickards, expert graptolite researcher, has died at the age of 71. It was reported this morning on PaleoNet, the palaeontology listserve.

My year group affectionately named him Darth Rickards, Dark Lord of the Schist. I recall sitting in a stream section somewhere in the Howgill Fells in the summer of 1999 trying to find graptolites with my fellow geology students (and nursing the mother of all hangovers), led by an ever-enthusiastic Barrie in his huge full-length wax coat.

Barrie also taught me everything I know about palaeobotany. And I wish, I wish, I had paid more attention in his classes.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

The State Of The Lecturer, 4th November

It's finally shaping up to be wintery here. Well, wintery by Soft Southern Nancy standards anyway. A chill in the air, blustery winds and crisp mornings to dry out soggy leaves.

For me, the first week of November heralds the official start of the Christmas countdown (I refuse to think about the C-word until this time). I refer, of course, to the arrival of the Starbucks Red Cups, and in particular, that nectar of the Flying Spaghetti Monster - the eggnog latte.

My first eggnog latte of the season, and I was salivating like Pavlov's dogs as I took this photo...

Today's high #1 - actually getting one of the students (who, whilst he is not wholly feckless could certainly do with having a little more in the way of feck) interested in malacology. I nearly fainted!

Today's high #2 - mentioning the word "vagina" several times in the course of my A2 class about epithelial cells and managing to not induce giggles in the teenagers. Truly I have become a biology teacher.

Today's low - buying the new Bon Jovi album on CD and then realising I had nothing to play it on, so high-tech is our home life.
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