Comedians don’t eat frogs…

by webmaster on February 28, 2017

People have been eating frogs for hundreds of years, but comedians don’t eat frogs, though this is nothing to do with eating actual frogs.
Eat The Frog is actually about procrastination or advice on how not to procrastinate. It’s basically the advice that if you have loads of unpleasant things to do in a day, pick the worst one and do that first… eat the frog – the presumption being that eating frogs is unpleasant.
There is of course a completely reverse way to look at procrastination. Recently I’ve read articles saying that procrastination isn’t necessarily a bad thing; ones saying that actively procrastinating on the big thing (the frog) often can make you speed through all the other little things that also need to be done, or – and this is my favorite one – that you procrastinate for so long on something you can no longer remember why it was on the list. I have my own variation of this… if someone asks you to do something and you procrastinate for a bit, they may find an alternative way to get it done. I once worked in a place where our office was on the second floor and the photocopier was on the first, and my boss used to come in and ask me to photocopy something for him (I was very junior at the time), and I used to say I’ll get around to it but basically just leave it there and he’d eventually need it so would go and do it himself.
For creative people, procrastination is actually healthy. If you have a deadline and you leave the task right up until that deadline, it can often help you think more clearly – that’s what I call germination procrastination: it looks like you’re just leaving the task till the last available moment, but while you’re procrastinating, something in your sub-conscious is actually already working on it so that when you come to do it, it all just flows out.
This works brilliant for creativity tasks, like writing comedy. Okay, we get the idea in plenty of time, but we leave it until the very last minute to put our thoughts in order for the show that night – haven’t you ever noticed how many comedians are seen scribbling away furiously in the green room before a show? Comedians don’t eat frogs.

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The trolley problem

by webmaster on December 20, 2016

I suppose some of you might have heard of the trolley problem and it’s many variants, but I was looking through them and found that if you put together some of the variants in a particular order, it can get quite interesting. If you haven’t heard of the trolley problem, basically it’s a thought experiment about sacrificing one life for many – there are plenty of good publications you can check out on it, just google it.
If you look at the variants this way though, it provides an even more interesting way to look at it – the best way to do this is to look at 1 first, and prevent yourself looking ahead until you’ve answered 1, and so on etc. I’ll put some line spaces in to make it easier…

You’re a pilot and your plane is going to crash. Counting you, and passengers and crew, you total 100. The plane is going to crash into a small town that you just happen to know has a population of 500. You have a choice to do something completely out of the normal procedure and by doing this you can avoid the small town – but of course you and all the crew and passengers will most likely still die. What do you do?

You are standing at a tram line and there are five people working on a track and 1 person working on a second track. There is a unoccupied tram coming for the five people but there is a switch beside you, so you can divert the tram to kill either the one or the five. You can’t contact them in any other way. It’s a simple choice – 1 or 5…

Similar scenario but this time you’re looking on from a bridge at five people working on a track and a person is standing beside you on the bridge (in some examples he’s referred to as a fat man but I think that clouds the judgement so in my version it’s just a person) and you can save the five my pushing the person off the bridge into the oncoming tram… actually now I see the fat man reference – presumably he’s fat enough to disrupt a tram… but it’s still the same question: 1 or 5?

Now it gets interesting. Imagine that the five are still working away on the tram line, the tram is approaching, but now, when you flip the switch, you will cause the tram to go to an unfinished line where it will derail and fall down a hill and kill a person sleeping in a hammock. 1 or 5.

Still with me? This one is for anyone who is still killing the one to save the five.
Enter a world famous surgeon with five patients who each need an organ from a compatible donor. A backpacker who openly tells the surgeon that they have no family arrives into the hospital and Dr House (sorry, Freudian slip there) the famous surgeon realizes the backpacker is a compatible donor and could be killed without anyone ever finding out – thereby saving the five transplant patients? Well? what do you say now? 1 or 5???

Anyway – Happy Christmas!

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In this episode of Science Chat, I talk to Paidi O’Reilly from University College Cork about the state of technology assessment in Ireland. Paidi is involved in the PACITA project which aims to strengthen the institutional foundation of European technology assessment by helping countries establish and improve their Parliamentary Technology Assessment (PTA) activities.
You can find out more about PACITA and the recent Dublin workshop at
The Science Chat podcast can of course be found in the usual place… as well as on iTunes.

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Episode 35 of Science Chat is devoted to a new project which will aim to re-organize the way scientific literature is made available to researchers, students, and anyone interested in it actually.
The project is the brainchild of Sam and Amy Molyneux. Sam is a Ph.D student in the University of Toronto and with his sister Amy they are creating Sciencescape, a social map of science with a mission to organise scientific literature in history and real time!
You can keep an eye on their progress by following them on Twitter as @sciencescape and you can sign up for their coming beta product at
The Science Chat podcast can of course be found in the usual place… as well as on iTunes.

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Science Chat – Episode 34: 60 Second Science

March 31, 2012

This episode of Science Chat is a first as it welcomes our first guest from the Southern hemisphere, from Australia actually. Brendan O’Brien works with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in Victoria, Australia, and is also convenor of 60 Second Science, a science outreach competition… and notwithstanding the time difference between Australia […]

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Science Chat – Episode 33: Science Calling!

February 28, 2012

In this episode Science Chat talks with Maria Daly about her science blog Science Calling! Last year Maria was invited to blog for Falling Walls and was also nominated for a Spider award, and her blog is probably one of the best new science blogs out there… in my opinion anyway! You can find Maria’s […]

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The first science I ever heard…

February 20, 2012

What was your first experience of science communication – what was the first science you were ever told? Can you remember? Well I couldn’t but a recent visit to my optician suggested to me what it might have been. As I approach the beautifully labeled time of life that is middle-age, apparently my poor tired […]

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Science Chat – Episode 32: ESOF 2010 Retrospective – Would Einstein be on Twitter?

February 11, 2012

As we move closer and closer to ESOF Dublin City of Science 2012 in Dublin, this episode of Science Chat is another look back to the program which took place in Turin for the 2010 City of Science. The guest on this episode is Barbara Diehl, Programme Manager at the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation […]

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Science Chat – Episode 31: Cafe Scientifique Portsmouth

January 13, 2012

Hello followers and happy new year 2012, the year when apparently (for non-scientists out there) it will all end! So, another new year, and a nice interesting new episode of Science Chat to start it off. By the way, it will be quite an exciting year for Science Chat because the podcast will be branching […]

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Science Chat – Episode 30: Explorer’s Education in the marine…

December 1, 2011

In this episode of Science Chat, episode 30, I talk to Dr John Joyce who founded the Explorers Education programme in the Marine Institute of Ireland to start young people off on the road to becoming marine scientists at an early age… in fact at the primary school level. This is another great example of […]

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