• Question: what's your favourite experiment

    Asked by losulli to Sofia, Cassie, Greg, Karen, Tommy on 13 Nov 2013. This question was also asked by epicshelby.
    • Photo: Sofia Franco

      Sofia Franco answered on 13 Nov 2013:

      Uuuummmm…I think my favourite experiment is going to be one that I am going to do next! I am going to get my baby barnacles (which live glued to parents) and going to put them in different positions in the tank: some normal, some upside down, some on the side in various places under a srong water current…and see where they move! Because the are glued but they can slowly move where they want (it just takes weeks!)….in fact…though the babies are always on top of the parents, when they get big they are just found in the rocks and not any more on the parents! Maybe they move down the parents to the rocks? But would they move in the same direction if they were upside down? What helps them know where to go? This is what we want to know! When we discover what helps them decide we can use that to understand better how they live and what is important!

    • Photo: Karen Bacon

      Karen Bacon answered on 18 Nov 2013:

      My favourite experiment that I know of being done is one that has been running for over 60 years! Over 70 years ago a scientist hypothesised that pitch (which can be from petrol, and is called asphalt or bitumen, or plants, and is then called resin) was actually able to flow if given enough time. In order to test this, pitch was put in a funnel that was turned upside down over a jar. The theory was that it would eventually flow and form a drop that would drip onto the container below. Although some drips happened (the scientists knew because they saw it in the jar), no one actually saw it happen. Because this took years to happen, the scientists couldn’t watch it all the time and they kept missing the drips! Then eventually they were able to set up a webcam to record the experiment for them. Finally in July this year, the camera recorded a drip falling from the funnel into the jar, proving the hypothesis! This is my favourite experiment because it has everything that you want in a science story – a hypothesis, a great but simple experimental design, lots of collaboration (so many scientists were involved over the decades!) and the final proof that the theory was correct – pitch is indeed viscous (ie can flow). It also shows that sometimes it takes a long time to get and answer!
      Of my own experiments, my favourite (to date!) was working within a group of scientists to try to simulate the atmospheric conditions of the Triassic-Jurassic boundary and then working out how plants responded. We did this in a controlled environment experiment where we tried to recreate the atmosphere based on lots of different evidence of 200 million years ago by changing oxygen, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide levels and then we exposed plants to the conditions to see what happened to them.

    • Photo: Thomas Doherty-Bone

      Thomas Doherty-Bone answered on 19 Nov 2013:

      There are so many really interesting experiments out there. Darwin’s experiment on survivorship of seeds in salt water is one. Or the experiment that demonstrated amphibian chytrid fungus was indeed the cause of mortality in frogs. Something that confirms unequivocally a cause of somethign that can be managed.

      Maybe my all time favourite is a huge experiment in the Brazilian Amazon that was set up over 30 years ago and I think is still running. It was to experimentally demonstrate how forest fragmentation effected Amazonian forest ecosystems. When the Brazilian government was cutting down forest, scientists asked them to leave particular chunks of forest of different size and different distance from the main forest block. They found that in smaller parcels of forest, tree species changed as the temperature in those forests would be higher. Many tree species died. Some persisted. Same for other organisms. Large mammals such as jaguar, monkeys and tapirs also disappeared from many of the smaller, isolated fragments. They found that the further away from the forest, the more species lost, but the larger fragments retained more species than the smaller ones. This has been very important for planning the design of nature reserves globally. More work was still needed to replicate this in other ecosystems, but this was a damn good start!

    • Photo: Cassandra Raby

      Cassandra Raby answered on 19 Nov 2013:

      At the moment my favourite experiment is the one we are doing with the baboons at the moment…
      We are trying to get the baboons to weigh themselves! Now these are wild baboons, so it isn’t easy to ask them to help us with the science. In fact they usually make it harder!
      What we have done is put out two big weighing scales, and these have to be really strong and heavy as baboons love to break things. Have you ever seen what baboons can do to cars?
      Then we put a mirror on the bottom, and a water bottle on a post – and these are supposed to help the baboon want to sit on the scales. Although they get really distracted by the mirror and it’s great fun to watch them look into it and get confused!

      We are doing this so that we can monitor their health – and I can see how their health changes across the years.

      If I won the money from this competition I would be able to film the way we do this research so people could understand what I do much easier! There’s a picture of the baboons being weighed on my profile! 🙂