Sunday, 21 April 2013

pH levels within the ground

pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline a substance is. Within our experiment we looked at determining the level of acidity the soil has. You are able to see these results elsewhere on the page.

What effect does the pH level have on tress/ plants?

Soil carries the nutrients that plants need to grow so it is important for the plant that the pH levels are adequate. Plants need nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to fight of disease and to grow. (NASA)

What makes the soil acidic?

‘Decaying organic matter produces H+ which is responsible for acidity.’ Zhang shows that the organic matter within the forest is responsible for the acidity of the soil.  This means that for the plants we have tested, the leaves that have fallen from the trees and had some effect on the pH levels of the soil.

Another interesting reason why the pH levels of soil may be different over a less localized area is because of the precipitation. Of a forest or wooded area (with soil) is near a factory and place of high pollution, the acidity within the soil will be effected. This acid level within the air will be caught by the rain and saturated not the ground on impact. This is not a reason why the levels where different in our findings however, but does explain how the pH levels of different towns/ cities could vary greatly.

Agriculture (2005)

This image is useful as showing visually the sources of some of the acidity in soils. Within the forest and our experiment, things like cows will not be present but there will be other animals carry out the same effects as the cow. Likewise, the crops that are growing may not necessarily be crops within the forest, but there will be small plants and grass growing that will have the same effect.

Zhang, H. Cause and Effects of Soil Acidity: Oklahoma State University. Availible at: (Accessed on: 17th  April )

NASA Official Site. Published by the Unversity of Maryland's Cooperative Extension Service and Department of Agronomy.

Available at: (Accessed on:  17th April)

Agriculture (2005) Available at :  (Accessed on: 17th April 

The Green Flame

Copper Sulphate and how to create a green flame

How to make Copper Sulphate crystals

When adding copper sulphate salts to hot water a copper sulphate solution can be made. This solution can either be put in a beaker, conical flask or a ceramic or glass plate/bowl. Then you must leave the solution to evaporate over time. After a week or two crystals should form. You can also put a pine cone in the beaker or plastic bucket to encourage the crystals to form on the pine cone.

The Green Fire

Now you can either apply some lighter fluid to the plate/bowl and then ignite this; you will be rewarded with your green flame. Or you can put the pinecone in a campfire and turn your campfire from an orange glow to an eery green glow. 

Here is a fantastic experiment that I'm sure would get primary children interested in science: Rainbow Flames

                                            (Science Company)

The science behind the green fire

The energy from the fire transfers some of this energy to the (metal) atoms in the copper sulphate crystals. This gives energy to the electrons in these atoms, which then jump to a higher energy state. They quickly drop back down losing energy; this energy is given out as light in the visible light spectrum; the wavelength of light given our for copper sulphate is green light. Hence, the reason why we get a green flame. (Science Company). 


andybethify. (2011) 5th grade science project rainbow flame [Online]
Available at: (Accessed 20th April 2013)

Science Company. Creating Flame Colors [Online]
Available at: (Accessed 20th April 2013)

All You Need To Know About Badger Setts

All you need to know about Badger setts

Where can you find badger setts?

Badger setts can be found in lots of different places but woodland areas are the best place to start, badgers like to eat earthworms and the best place for them to find these worms is short grass that has been grazed on by livestock. This therefore means that the best places to look are the areas of woodland which are nearest to fields. The badgers obviously use the woodland as shelter and protection and then go into the fields to get food. 

Can they be found in all types of woodland?

The answer to this is no, due to the fact that they like to dig tunnels or burrows and live inside them therefore they need woodland which has suitable ground for digging. This will mean that areas that are liable to flooding or which have marshy ground are definitely not the correct environment for the badgers, they much prefer dry and sandy soil, although having said this they do also live clay areas as well if they have to. Due to the fact that the badgers much prefer to dig sideways than they do downwards, they will be more likely to be found in sloping areas than they are likely to be found on flat land. This is because the water flows down the slopes and therefore helps to keep the sett dry. 
Image 2

What does a sett look like?

Most simple setts will look like a tunnel with a sleeping chamber at the end, however many of them are much more complicated than this; being made up of a series of tunnels and having nursery chambers as well as the normal sleeping chambers. They may have many entrances and may even be advanced enough to be taking into account air circulation making sure they constantly have a supply of fresh air. The entrances themselves often have piles of mud outside them and are generally bigger than rabbit holes. 
Image 1

How do they build the setts?

The badgers front set of claws are up to 25mm long and are very tough and powerful, these are the ones they use for digging the tunnels. Their other claws are usually only about 10 to 15mm.

What is a nesting chamber and what is their purpose?

Nesting chambers are usually the place where the badger goes for comfort and they are filled with bedding like materials which form a layer between the badger and the damp soil in order to keep them warm, which is especially essential for the cubs who would find it very difficult to survive the colder temperatures otherwise. The other function of the nesting chambers is to form an area with a constant, comfortable temperature controlled area which is cooler than being outside in the summer and warmer than being outside in the winter. Many people think that the nesting chambers are always found at the very end of the sett, however this is not always the case as sometimes they can be found along at the side of the tunnels. Many of the nesting chambers can be very small, even to the point where the badgers cannot actually spread out inside them and therefore have to stay curled up instead. This allows the badger to conserve as much of its body heat as possible, this being essential during the winter when they cannot find food and therefore are living off their own body fat and will need to keep up their core body temperatures as much as possible. 

They tend to have more nesting chambers than they need in order to allow them to rotate between the chambers otherwise they do not have a chance to freshen up at all, this would be detrimental to the badgers as like many wild animals they carry parasites on their bodies which when the badgers rotate between the chambers will just die off in the bedding. This wouldn't be the case if the chamber was always occupied. 

Different types of badger setts

Here in the UK there are four major types of badger setts that can be found;
  • Main setts -usually have very obvious pathways to and from the sett and they have a large number of tunnels and entrances. They are usually in constant use. 
  • Annex setts - often found about 150m away from the main set and these have intermittent use and it is usually very clear that they are linked with obvious pathways to the main sett. 
  • Subsidiary setts - these are not as active and are generally associated with the main sett, being at least 50m but it is not clear that they are associated with the main sett.  
  • Outlaying setts - much smaller setts with only one or two holes and are not used very often. There usually are no obvious links at all with main sets and as they are not used very often they are likely to get taken over by other animals such as foxes or rabbits. 

The sets we found in Seeley Copse 

Seeley Copse 
At Seeley Copse we found a couple of different badger setts, my guess is that there was a main badger set and an annex or subsidiary sett. 

Seeley Copse


Badger Setts available at: (accessed 20/04/13)

How to recognize a badger sett available at: (accessed 20/04/13)

Image 1 available at: (accessed 20/04/13)

Image 2 available at: asset=image&assetId=1232712320822&imageSize=xLarge&mode=prd (accessed 20/04/13)

Seeley Copse Images taken by myself. 

Homo heidelbergensis

Named after the doctor who first discovered the remains in Modern Day Germany. Believed to have existed around 600,000 to 400,000 years ago and are believed to be the first genus that really utilised stone tools. The Natural History Museum concurs with this view as they theorise that Homo heidelbergensis utilised tools to hunt large game. The BBC states that their brain capacity was around 90% of Homo sapiens. We can speculate that this means there cannot be many descendants between Home heidelbergensis

Despite all this initial research, we still know very little about Homo heidelbergensis. Research on early man is always moving on and what we know now may change within days

National History Museum, (date unknown). Homo heidelbergensis. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 2 3 2013]

BBC, (date unknown). The first Europeans - one million years ago. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 2 3 2013]

Difference in Weight of Popcorn Before nd After.

The difference in weight and size of popcorn.

When thinking about the ‘popping’ of popcorn process there are a number of questions that arise.

For example, how much more volume does a ‘popped’ kernel take up over and un-popped kernel?

Within this evaluation I aim to raise and answer some of these questions.

Is there a difference in weight of the kernel before and after it has ‘popped’?

Cockeyed (2011) did an experiment to determine just this question; it mentions that to start off with, the weight of the popcorn is 72.1 grams. To determine this, highly sensitive scales were used. This weight also included that bag that the popcorn was held in.

I myself believed that when the microwave had heated the popcorn, it would the same weight.  However after seeing the experiment shown by Cockeyed (2011) I now believe differently.

72.1 grams of popcorn where originally within the bag, before the bag had been heated. However the popcorn weighed 62.3 grams after it had been heated and the popcorn had popped. The popcorn was 14% lighter after the heating had taken place.

Why is this?

The popcorn had been heated to steaming hot temperature, losing water and oil vapor while cooking. (Cockeyed, 2011)

After the experiment was carried out, 9.8 milliliters of water were collected from the back that had been released from the kernels when heating.

Mass Of Un-popped Corn  -  Mass Of Popped Corn   =  Mass Of Water       Volland (2010)

Volland (2010) shows us that to calculate the final percentage of water lost we need to be able to calculate the mass of the kernel before and the mass of the water afterwards.

Why not try popping your own popcorn and see what you find?

(Accessed 4th April)

Volland, W. (2010) Why Popcorn Pops.
(Accessed 8th April)
Here we can see charcoal being made in  mass production situation.

How is it formed: Woodlands (2008) and Amazingribs (2011) both agree on the production of charcoal and how it is formed. Charcoal is the solid residue left when carbon is burnt, or as some say ‘pyrolysed’ in an absence of oxygen and other possible impurities often in a closed case such as a kiln. This method can take a while to produce charcoal though. So often in industry or mass-market, they have systems to eliminate all oxygen as it provides a higher yield as no extra wood is burnt.
Once the process starts it produces its own heat but the decomposition doesn’t start until it reaches 300°C

Charcoal is available as either a ‘lump’ or a briquette. SeriousEats looks the the differences between lumps and briquettes. A ‘lump’ will lights quickly, burn hotter, have little ash production, easier temperature adjustment, and all natural. However, it will burn faster, can be more expensive, less consistent (bags can contain unusably small pieces of charcoal) where as a briquette will burn longer, easier to maintain consistent temperature, cheaper.
However, they are often take longer to light, give a chemical smell, large ash production. 

How can we make better charcoal?
A good place to start when making our own charcoal is removing as much water moisture as possible and other volatile substances such as methane, tar and hydrogen.

What are the uses of charcoal? 

Charcoal has been used by ancient peoples for hundreds of years as tool for communication and also many new uses. 
UK agriculture (2013) demonstrates these uses, both current and ancient.



Amazingribs, (2011). The Zen Of Charcoal: How Charcoal Is Made And How Charcoal Works. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 28 3 2013].
UK Agriculture, (2005). Charcoal Uses. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 20 4 2013].
Woodlands, (2008). How do you make charcoal?. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 16 3 2013].
 SeriousEats, (2008). Grilling Smackdown: Lump Charcoal vs. Briquettes. [Online]

Available at: [Accessed 18 3 2013]