Welcome

Welcome to MrExham.com, an online blog designed for students, teachers and anyone who loves anything Biology!

The primary aim of my blog is to create an information resource for pupils studying Biology IGCSE, A Level and the International Baccalaureate (IB). I will also be regularly posting links to anything in the Biology world that I find interesting, be it news stories, articles, videos, or games, in the hope that Mr Exham will inspire YOU to Make Sense of Biology.

I hope to complete the IGCSE section of the course over the next few months. As A Levels will be changing soon I will only put basic information on these pages until the new course has been approved.

Do you study the AQA AS Biology course. Why not try the revision quizzes on my new AQA AS Biology page.

http://mrexham.com/aqa-as/

Use your student book to correct your answers and keep trying the quizzes everyday to improve.

New A2 Revision Quiz

Here is the latest revision quiz for A2 Biology. It covers Unit 2 Module 1 – Cellular Control and Variation. It does not have any detailed genetic problems or maths questions as it is purely meant to be for factual recall of the key words and definitions.

 

Happy Halloween

To celebrate Halloween why not enlighten yourself with some fun Biology Halloween trivia.

  • The scientific name for the pumpkin is Curbita maxima.
  • The pumpkin is not actually a vegetable but a fruit – in fact it’s a berry! It develops from a single pistil of the flower and has no stone or papery core.
  • Pumpkins are monoecious, which means they produce both male and female flowers on the same plant. To ensure adequate pollination farmers often place beehives in pumpkin fields during the bloom period.
  • Beta-carotene gives the pumpkin it’s bright orange colour. Beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A which is needed for healthy skin and good eyesight.
  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the fastest time to carve a face into a pumpkin is 20.1 seconds, achieved by David Finkle of the United Kingdom.
  • If you know someone who is afraid of Halloween don’t make fun of them, they may be suffering from Samhainophobia – a condition where people have an irrational fear of Halloween.
  • According to legend, a monobrow, pronounced canine teeth, and having a long middle finger are all signs of lycanthropy – being a werewolf!

And finally, here’s a hilarious video from Steve Spangler conducting a simple halloween science experiment to make oozing pumpkins.

Teaching and Learning – Animations

Recently in my department we have been using modelling clay to help animate complex biological processes that students find hard to visualise and learn. It’s very simple to do, all you need is some modelling clay, a smartphone or digital camera, some pens and paper and some basic video editing software like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. To make the animations as smooth as possible the students should take as many still frames as they can. These are then put into the software and text, music and transitions are all added. It can be done in the class in small groups or for a homework task. Below are two examples of processes that this works particularly well for meiosis and protein synthesis.

Protein Synthesis:

Meiosis:

Other biology topics that this technique would be useful for include: movement of substances across membranes, the nephron, genetic engineering of human insulin, action potentials, respiration, photosynthesis, enzymes and many more.

Bang Goes The Borders

Tomorrow Mr Exham will be taking part in the Bang Goes The Borders Science Festival. It is a free event held at St. Mary’s School, Melrose between 10am and 4pm. There are all sorts of fantastic workshops and events taking place throughout the day. Leading Universities such as The University of Edinburgh, Newcastle University and Herriot-Watt are all taking part as well some of the leading schools from Scotland and the North of England such as Fettes College.

Mr Exham will be running four workshops throughout the day (10:45, 12:00, 14:00, 15:00) where you will be able to extract your own DNA from your cheek cells and put it into a wearable pendant. Click on the image below to view the Prezi that I will be using for my workshops.

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 14.15.16

For a list of all the events happening at Bang Goes The Borders click here, the first 500 children to visit the event will receive a free BGTB bag packed with science themed goodies! I will be tweeting pictures and updates live tomorrow from St. Mary’s.

Would you eat this burger?

Today in London the first ever lab-grown hamburger was cooked and eaten. Would you eat meat grown in a lab? Before you answer the question you should know more about how the burger was made and more importantly, why?

How the burger was made?
It was made by Professor Mark Post from Maastricht University in Holland using using stem cells taken from a dead cow. These are muscle specific stem cells that are then provided with nutrients so that they can divide over and over again by mitosis. The cells naturally come together to form small fibres called myotubes. These are electrically stimulated to make them contract and relax, this builds the muscle fibres just like going to the gym. They are then combined with fat grown in a lab and a few other additives such as beetroot for colour and then pressed into a burger. Therefore only a few cells are needed to make a whole burger, and potentially tons of meat.

Watch the video below to learn more about stem cells.

Why was the burger made?

  • We currently have a huge demand for meat in the world. The increase of the middle classes in countries such as India and China has further increased demand for meat and also the cost. Artificial meat could therefore provide a cheaper alternative to real meat.
  • The population is increasing at an exponential rate. Current methods of producing meat will not be sustainable in the future and so artificial meat may be a good solution as it can be grown using 99% less land. Using less land for animals means more can be used to grow crops such as fruit and vegetables which are healthy and much needed as the population continues to grow.
  • Current methods of meat production are very bad for the environment. A lot of energy is used to farm meat, from producing the feed to housing and slaughtering the livestock. However the major issue is methane. Ruminants such as sheep and cattle release a lot of methane due to their digestive system. Methane is a greenhouse gas which is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. This is contributing hugely to global warming and consequently climate change. In contrast, lab-grown beef uses 45% less less energy and produces 96% less greenhouse gases (Source: Environmental Science and Technology Journal).
  • Another issue is animal welfare. Many vegetarians and vegans have taken the life choice not to eat meat because they disagree with how animals are treated in the production of meat. Meat grown in the lab avoids the need to grow animals and slaughter them in the way we do now. Only one cow would be needed to make thousands and thousands of burgers.

Watch this video to see a nice summary of these issues.

What are the problems with lab-grown meat?

  • It costs about £250,000 to make lab-grown beef. However in the future when the cost of the technology involved becomes cheaper it could be economically viable to make meat on a mass scale. The question is will it ever be cheap enough to actually be used by the countries where it may be needed the most?
  • The taste of the meat may not be as good. At this afternoon’s tasting Austrian food researcher Ms Ruetzler said: “It’s close to meat, it’s not that juicy, the consistency is perfect”. It’s therefore expected that other additives will need to be used to make the meat taste better and also make it more healthy then regular meat.
  • Perhaps we should be focussing on managing our current issues with food such as food wastage – at the moment we throw away a 6th of all food!
  • The thought of growing food in a lab this way can be off-putting to people.

So now you know the details, have you made up your mind? If you’re still not sure watch this TED talk by Prof Mark Post and see if he can convince you.

Please comment below with your opinions on this amazing scientific development.

Photo credit: David Parry/PA

Do you know your stigma from your anther?

Plant reproduction is often seen as dull and boring compared to animal reproduction but it’s actually incredibly interesting. The lastest video to be uploaded to my YouTube channel shows me dissecting a flower to help you learn about it’s anatomy and how the two processes of pollination and fertilisation occur.

If you’d like to learn more about the life cycle of a plant including seed growth and dispersal, why don’t you click here and work your way through the great animations and activities available. You could also test your knowledge of flower anatomy by trying this quick quiz.

It’s important to remember that pollination is not just carried out by bees, watch this amazing video on YouTube about ‘The Beauty of Pollination’. There is some fantastic footage of insects and birds collecting pollen from anthers.

New IGCSE Quizlets available

I know a lot of recent visitors to the website have enjoyed using Quizlet to help with their revision. For anyone who hasn’t used Quizlet before you can learn what it is, and how to use it, by clicking here. There are now two new quizes available to help you revise Food and Digestion, just click on the links below to access them:

IGCSE Biology – Nutrition and Biochemistry

IGCSE Biology – Digestion and Enzymes

For anyone studying this topic I’d recommend watching Hank Green’s YouTube video below. He will take you on a crash course through the bowels of the human digestive system and explain why it’s all about surface area!

Hank’s YouTube channel is a great resource for anyone studying Biology, it has 40 different videos covering topics such as photosynthesis, meiosis, natural selection and ecology. Why don’t you check it out!

The final 3 IGCSE revision tests

The last three revision tests for IGCSE have now been uploaded to the IGCSE revision page. Download them from SlideShare, complete them, use the textbook to mark them, write out anything you get wrong on the revision tracker, and then repeat the test every couple of days until you are getting close to full marks!

Click here to find a test for Section A: Organisms and Life Processes.

Click here to find a test for Section E: Variation and Selection

Click here to find a test for Section F: Microorganisms and Genetic Engineering

As always these tests have been created using the relevant textbooks so the answers should be easy to find. However, if you’d like the answers for any of the tests available on mrexham.com just send me an email.

Need a new way to revise?

Bored of making flash cards? Tired of writing out notes? Why not try mind mapping? There are many reasons why drawing a mind map can be a useful way to learn. Just look at this list of the top 100 reasons to mind map compiled by mind mapping guru Paul Foreman. Paul has made a great mind map to give you some help getting started. You can also see more of Paul’s mind maps by visiting his website: http://www.mindmapinspiration.co.uk/#.

Try Mind MappingBelow is a mind map of the entire F211 AS Biology unit that I made with my students in a lesson this week.

IMG_2579

Why not choose a topic for yourself and see if you can make a mind map using all the key terms, you could even add some diagrams as well. Alternatively, if you want to do a mind map on the computer there is plenty of mind mapping software available, but a good free one is FreeMind. You can watch this YouTube tutorial to help you get to grips with the FreeMind software.

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