Sunday, September 26, 2010...11:17 pm

My first OU science project

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My bid for scientific credibility has finally got off the ground with my very first Open University science experiment.

You can see the high-precision, high-tech equipment I’ve been devising to help me undertake Activity 2.1: Measuring Precipitation – part 1. It’s all a bit primary school – but actually quite instructive. After cutting down the water bottles and levelling off the bases with cement (whose weight will also help stabilise the gauges), I realise that I haven’t left a whole lot of room for the actual rain (or, technically, “precipitation”).

Luckily, I started measuring rainfall the day after a torrential downpour, so the measurements so far have been a straightforward, if unexciting, 0mm. If the weather gets a bit more iffy, though, things may get more complicated. Though obviously as I haven’t had any rain to measure yet, I could just make a couple of new and better ones and pretend I was using them all along (falsifying results already!).

The first course book has settled down a bit after a shaky start, when it more resembled a Green Party pamphlet than a science text. By chapter 3, though, it has largely morphed into what it really should have been all along – Measurement and Uncertainty, rather than the more crowd-pleasing Global Warming.

Rather unsettlingly, I’m getting much more of the basic maths wrong than I thought I would. Scientific notation and significant figures are rather dim memories from my schooldays – must try harder

1 Comment

  • I remember that we undertook a similar precipitation measurement experiment at my primary school using a glass milk bottle (remember them?) with a paper depth gauge taped to the side. However the experiment was abandoned after the first measurement revealed a suspiciously large amount of yellow rainwater.
    I think somebody got the strap for that!