Author Archives: Eva Amsen

Science, Gaudí, Barcelona

In the basement of the Sagrada Família is a model of a church that Gaudí designed – upside down! The model of the unfinished church at Colonia Güell is made out of strings and little weights. The weights pull the string into the shape of the final building.

Model of Church at Colonia Guell

Gaudí designed the Sagrada Família by similar gravitational principles, although he didn’t build the entire cathedral upside down out of string. The exhibit in the basement shows a bit more of the math and science behind that construction. Continue reading


When I want to go to GMail, I usually type in “gm” in the browser address bar, and it autofills to GMail. Sometimes this doesn’t work, and I end up looking at the Google page with stock info for General Motors.

Through a similar mishap, I recently learned about the Ethiopian town of Fincha when I tried to go to The Finch And Pea site. Fincha’s economy is largely supported by the local sugar industry, which in turn depends on the Fincha Hydroelectric Power Station, which generates electricity for over 60 thousand homes as well as the sugar factory.

Here’s a video about the sugar factory, which also touches on the production process and related research into biofuels. I learned that the sugar factory also generates electricity itself, and can be self-sufficient.

The things you learn when you clumsily try to type shortcuts in your browser!

The African Science Truck Experience

The African Science Truck Experience (TASTE) is an amazing charity I first found our about when founder Amy Buchanan-Hughes spoke at a science unconference I co-organised a few years ago.

TASTE is a project to provide school kids in Uganda with appropriate science lab tools that they need to study science in middle and high school. It’s difficult and expensive to set up science labs in individual schools in Uganda, but TASTE solves the problem with wheels: They have a mobile lab (the “science truck”) which can travel from school to school. Kids use the equipment when the truck is in town, and then it leaves after their labs are done, onto the next location!


In 2013, they reached 1400 students this way, and now TASTE are planning their next trip to Uganda. They are raising money throughout 2015 to be able to return in 2016 with the mobile lab and teacher training.

They’ve just started their fundraising, which involves a weekly focus on a specific item that they need sponsors for. This week’s item is…. a box of cockroaches, to help students learn anatomical drawing, which is a part of their curriculum.


You can follow TASTE on Facebook and Twitter to keep track of the weekly items, or their fundraising page to donate. (Note that the donation amounts listed are in British pounds. £10 is approximately $15 US)

Images from TASTE site and Facebook page.

Maud Menten, #ScienceWoman

Which science woman inspires you? That was the question that It’s Okay To Be Smart and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls are currently asking people to answer in video format.

I couldn’t really pick one, because I know way too many inspiring science women, so I went with Maud Menten: one of the scientists who laid a lot of the groundwork for the field I studied. Only, I didn’t realise she was a woman until years after I first heard about her work!

I used my Lego set again, but this time I also put myself on screen.

It’s kind of embarrassing that I just blindly assumed that all the people in my textbooks were men. Half of the students in my undergrad chemistry department were women, and later half of the PhD students in my grad school biochemistry department were women as well. But at the top level, there were only a handful of female professors. I never really needed female role models to be able to choose science, and I thought I didn’t really care or notice what gender my professors were, but I wonder if I might not have blindly assumed that everyone in textbooks was a man if I had been around more female professors.

Or would I still have assumed that all scientists of the past – the ones mentioned in our books – were men? It’s hard to say, but having more women in top science positions now will change the demographics of the people mentioned in textbooks of the future.

2015 science festivals around the world

Want to travel the world visiting science festivals? You could, if you wanted to.

The first major science festival of the year is already over. Techfest (Asia’s largest science/tech festival) ran from January 2 to 5 in Bombay, India. It’s an annual event, so consider this a heads-up for 2016.

Below is a list of science festivals for the rest of 2015. It doesn’t include all science festivals – there are way too many. Instead, it lists some throughout the year, across the world, including some of the biggest ones. For a more complete list see this 2011 post on Schemes and Memes.








  • 2015 date tba – Geek Picnic – St Petersburg, Russia





I challenge you to visit all of them! (Good luck on May 9…)