Thursday, 23 December 2010

Cumbrian & Japanese earthquakes - December 21st 2010.

With me half way through a course on the subject of volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis, there has been interesting news this week about earthquakes in Cumbria, England and Japan.

The Cumbrian quake, a relatively modest magnitude 3.5 ML is unlikely to have caused significant damage, but was nevertheless felt throughout Cumbria, in Galloway and southern Scotland. Detailed info can be found at the British Geological Survey website here.

Meanwhile, on the same day, a more potentially destructive quake was experienced in the Bonin Island region of Japan with a magnitude of 7.4 at a depth of 14 kilometers. While we Brits might get excited by an admittedly infrequent but modest 3.5 quake, the Japanese have had to endure an alarming succession of 86, yes, eighty-six quakes between Tuesday 21st and Thursday 23rd December and all of them have been in excess of 4.7! I know aftershocks are likely after any earthquake, but 86? Scary stuff! Take a look at the list of mgnitudes on this website.

This will all be of use later in my course I'm sure.

Cheers for now,

Sunday, 19 December 2010

S170: Darwin and Evolution - The Result!


Sorry it has been a while, but what with another Open University course to get to grips with, a ridiculously busy life playing 'taxi' in order to ferry the girls to their umpteen social activities and then TWO WEEKS with the flu (yes, REAL flu not a mythical man-flu!), there has been precious little time for anything else in my cluttered schedule! So much for blogging more in 2010! Sigh!

Anyway, I've mentioned a few times on these pages how uninspired I was by the 'Darwin & Evolution' course, S170. The 10 credit, Level 1, OU course seemed like it would be a good follow up to the truly excellent 'Fossils and the History of Life'. I posted the following feedback onto the OU's website for S170:-

Opinion seems somewhat divided on this course with some really enjoying it and others being decidedly unimpressed. I'm afraid I fall into the latter category. After taking 'Fossils and the History of Life' and loving it, I thought this would be a good follow up course but for some reason it just never 'grabbed' me at all. The enthusiasm was there to begin with and I prepared by reading Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species' on the run up, but the study materials managed to kill off that interest completely.
The main reason I think was because of the lack of printed course book. The need to be constantly switching between the online course materials and the set book '99% Ape' was very inconvenient and meant I never got into a settled study routine. I found '99% Ape' to be horribly disjointed and frankly, dull and needs a radical re-write in my opinion!
Also, the well intentioned snail 'megalab' study just did not work in practice. Unlike many, I did manage to find lots of snails, but frustratingly few if any suitable samples to compare them with in my area, which rendered the whole thing a bit farcical. The OU needs to seriously rethink this study in future presentations.
Unlike the period following each of my previous courses, I have no idea if I have passed this course at all, which I think says it all.

I don't think I was being overly harsh either. I really didn't have a clue whether I had properly grasped the material and done enough to pass the course. Last Friday however, I found to my relief that I did manage a good PASS. Hoorah!

Frustratungly, the OU no longer gives a numerical mark for these short science courses, prefering to give a simple, brief indication as to how well you have achieved various 'Key Learning Outcomes'. Now I really hate this modern politically correct tosh - give me a damned percentage mark any day! But at least I did manage 'Well Achieved' in every category except one where I nevertheless achieved 'Achieved', if you follow me? So, I would appear that, despite not enjoyimng this course as much as previous ones, I did manage a very good pass and its another 10m credits in the bag towards a degree, making 80 in total so far!

Not that I will end up with a BSc in Geosciences any more. Oh no, the OU in its infinite wisdom has decided to scrap named degrees in science subjects and are intent on lumping them together under the umbrella called 'Natural Sciences'. While the content of my degree can be made up predominantly of Geology and Earth Science modules, the degree I will be awarded will be 'BSc in Natural Sciences'. Hmm, not at all convinced this is a great idea. It seems a retrograde step to me and from what I hear on the grapevine, there is a move to get the OU to rethink this decision. Fingers crossed, because if there's anything that will push me towards doing a degree at Derby University in preference to the OU it is the fact that I can get a GEOLOGY degree at Derby! Come on Open University - think about it!?!

Time to get on with Volcanoes, earthquakes and Tsunamis. Fascinating stuff and more on this one later!

Cheers for now!