Queen's University Belfast School of Maths and Physics are proud to showcase the top entries to this year's STEM Photography competition. With over 100 fantastic entries from school children in key stages 3 and 4, the event highlights their incredible creativity and insight into the science and technology in their everyday lives. We are very grateful to them for sharing their vision with us and are excited to share it these images with you here in our online gallery. We are planning to host the event again in the near future and will keep populating the gallery with stunning entries. Please take a moment to scroll through the top-entries and let them show you the beautiful science all around us.
Curious Copper Column! Copper isn’t magnetic? Then why do these “coppers” balance perfectly on top of each other? That’s because they aren’t really made of copper, but instead are made of copper-plated steel. Steel, being an alloy of iron, displays ferromagnetic properties, which explains why these coins become magnetized when placed in an external magnetic field.
This photograph depicts how the strong external magnetic field from a permanent Neodymium magnet, can cause the ferromagnetic 1p and 2p coins to become temporary magnets. Imagine the iron atoms in the pennies being arranged in small units, called domains. Each domain, although microscopic in size, contains millions of billions of atoms and can act like a small magnet. If a magnetic material is placed in a strong magnetic field, the individual domains, which normally point in all directions, will gradually swing around into the direction of the field. When most of the domains are aligned to the field, the material becomes a magnet. Even more amazingly these domains can affect neighbouring domains, hence why the magnetism can move from one coin to another and form a gravity defying column of coins! However, the strength of the magnetic pull decreases the further away the ferromagnetic material is from the external magnetic field source (in this case the Neodymium magnet).
The beginning of lockdown provided the perfect opportunity to photograph the night sky. Pictured here, with the backdrop of Larne Harbour, is my stargazing setup to find some of the famous Messier objects. That night I had been using my Celestron Astromaster 130 EQ with a 6mm eyepiece to look at Messier 57 – The Ring Nebula. After enthusiastically watching several videos, I decided to have a go at a star trail photo.
These are created by taking many long exposure images of the sky from a fixed position i.e. the only movement is the apparent movement of the stars. The Earth does a full rotation around its axis (at a tilt of 23.5° from the perpendicular to the ecliptic) once every 24 hours. This is the cause of our day-night cycle. However, it has other effects as well. As the Earth is rotating, but we are stationary relative to the Earth’s movement, we instead perceive the stars to be moving in a circle around the celestial poles. In the Northern Hemisphere the celestial pole is approximately 1° from the star Polaris. The multiple images can then be run through post-processing software which blends the images by comparing them and choosing the brightest pixel in each location to form one final photo.
Due to Earth’s rotation, the Sun disappears over the horizon every day in a phenomenon known as a sunset. As the Sun reaches the West of the sky, the sunlight passes through a thicker layer of atmosphere. The small particles and molecules in this layer of atmosphere reflect and change the direction of the sunlight, scattering it.
This phenomenon of scattering is what causes the beautifully vibrant pinkish-red hues of a sunset: The multitudinous scattering “events” cause an increased amount of violet and blue light to be dispersed out of the beam. As such, the sunlight that reaches our eye has a longer wavelength and is significantly more reddened. The boats in my photograph are able to stay afloat based on the science of forces, displacement, and density. Archemides’ Principle states that the buoyant (upward) force is equal to the weight of displaced liquid. For an object to float, the downward force, gravity, (which is determined by the object’s mass) needs to be less than the upward force (buoyancy), or the weight of the displaced water. The air inside the steel boat is much less dense than water, so it keeps the boat floating. The closer the total density of the ship (and air inside) is to the density of the same volume of water, the more of the boat will be submerged in the water.
As confusing as this photo looks…this is me standing in my grandparent’s garden with a whisk on the end of a rope, swinging flaming steel wool in a circle above my head. I loved doing this as I think the type of image this method produces is very eye-catching and intriguing. As an A level physics student, I suppose I see things slightly differently to those who appreciate the photo for what it simply is.
The primary point I thought I could take from this photo was a demonstration of differing parabolic paths. The small sparks that come off the burning steel wool give a visual representation of the way in which a body moves off a circular path at a tangent, and then subsequently how its acceleration is impacted. I like to think that each individual spark that moves across the camera’s sensor is one that helps paint a picture of how a parabola is formed by a moving object and how this tells us more about motion in its simplest state.
My First Egg. My photograph depicts the scientific difference between a freshly laid free range egg and a purchased free range egg. The difference between the two eggs is portrayed through the difference in size, shell colour and shell texture. During October we purchased four new hens and today we got our first egg. As you can see from my photograph the size difference is very prominent.
The purchased free range egg is larger which it’s size may have been contributed by the weight and breed type of the hen. The colour of the two eggs is very clear in the photograph.The pigment in the shell of the purchased free range egg is quiet dark compared to the free range egg which is lighter in colour as it is covered in white specks. The difference in the shell texture may not be very distinctive in the photograph but the difference is quiet remarkable.As hens become older in age this starts to have a major impact on the shell texture.The purchased free range egg is a great example as the shell becomes thinner and smoother compared to the freshly laid free range egg which is rougher and thicker in texture. I chose this photograph as I was very interested in knowing why these eggs differ from each other and how science has a remarkable impact on the living things around us.
In two of my ALevel subjects (physics and technology) we learn about electricity. I have always found it interesting how it works and how it is generated.
This photograph show electricity pylons in Island Magee, from Ballylumford Power Station. Ballylumford Power Station was first built in 1943 running on coal boilers, sending power across Northern Ireland. It was then in 2003 the new combined cycle gas turbine power station went into full operation, generating an output of 600MW and increasing the effeciency by 50%. The power station generates electricity to the majority of homes and businesses in Northern Ireland.
The scientific process I have captured in my photo is ascission, this is the natural detachment of leaves from trees that occurs mainly at autumn time. In autumn, because the temperature drops and daylight changes, the leaves stop producing their food.
The chlorophyll production in the leaves cells stops so the green pigment is lost making the leaves change to the vibrant orange and yellow colours we see and love. The tree doesn't want to waste the good nutrients in the leaf so it takes them back to be stored in the stems and roots of the tree. When the leaf is empty, the tree stops holding onto it and it falls to the ground. The leaves will continue to photosynthesise on the ground but not for long, the leaf will die because of the lack of minerals, hormones and glucose. I captured this beautiful process at Stormont estate with Stormont Parliament Building in the background.
This is a beautiful picture of a journey in science. In this picture you can see Kilroot Power station and some wind turbines. The power station burns fossil fuels which are non-renewable energy resources this is because their supply is limited, and they will eventually run out. About three-quarters of the electricity generated in the UK comes from power stations fuelled by fossil fuels.
On the other hand, we are in a war against carbon emissions and scientists have been working hard to find renewable energy resources. Renewable energy is defined as energy that is collected from resources that will never run out or which are replaced by nature in less than a human lifetime. Wind is produced as a result of giant convection currents in the Earth's atmosphere, which are driven by heat energy from the Sun. Wind turbines are driven by the wind, as the wind blows, it transfers some of its kinetic energy to the blades, which turn and drive the generator. Several wind turbines may be grouped together to form a wind farm, which is visible in this picture. The advantage of wind power is that it is low cost to run and it also doesn’t emit green house gasses. The disadvantages of wind power are that if there is no wind there is no electricity produced, wind farms are noisy, and they can cause visual pollution.
Our oceans cover more than 80% of the world’s surface. In this wonderful picture we can see the beautiful sea. The seas and oceans of our planet are home to more than 228,450 known species - and there are millions more waiting to be discovered! Oceans and seas play an important role on our planet.
The oceans are responsible for producing 70% of the oxygen we breathe. How does the ocean produce all this oxygen? Basically, a microscopic plant found in the oceans called phytoplankton absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. These tiny plants are keeping us alive! As well as providing us with oxygen, seas and oceans also provide us food too. The average person consumes more than 20kg of seafood per year. The ocean also regulates the earth’s climate. It soaks up heat and transports it from the equator to the poles, and transports cold water from the poles to the tropics. Without our ocean currents, the weather in some places would be very extreme, making them inhabitable. These are just a few of the many reasons as to why our oceans and seas play a key role in keeping us alive.
I took a picture of a sunrise with an interesting cloud pattern. When sunlight hits earth’s atmosphere the light is scattered by the gas molecules. Due to the size of these molecules, shorter wavelength light is scattered more. The smallest wavelength of visible light is blue, and that’s why the sky is blue.
When the sun is high up in the sky the light only has to travel a short distance through earth’s atmosphere before it reaches our eye. However, when the sun gets closer to the horizon at sunrise or sunset, the light travels sideways through more of our atmosphere before it reaches our eyes, and so the blue light is scattered more, and more. Due to this extra dispersal of the blue light it becomes less intense, until we see the longer wavelengths of light such as reds, oranges, and yellows. The clouds in this image are Cumulus, Cumulus clouds are clouds which have flat bases and are often described as "puffy", "cotton-like" or "fluffy" in appearance. Their name derives from the Latin cumulo, meaning heap or pile. Cumulus clouds are low-level clouds, generally less than 6,600 ft. in altitude unless they are in a more vertical form. Cumulus clouds may appear by themselves, in lines, or in clusters.
This may look like just another early morning sunrise, but if you look a little closer in the darker areas of the sky, you can see a rather bright dot in what looks to be an empty sky. This dot is Venus and it is one of the brightest objects in the night sky(excluding the Moon). Although not as bright as usual, it was the brightest during late April.
It can be seen so clearly from Earth, not because it is at its closest point to Earth but rather when it is near a point in its orbit of the Sun called the ‘Maximum Elongation. In which the Sun’s glare cannot obscure it from Earth. From our point of view it is moving near the side of Earth. The further to the side of the night sky it moves, the easier it is for us to see back on Earth. Venus is also so bright because the clouds of sulfuric acid in Venus’s atmosphere make it reflective and shiny and it obscures our view of the surface. Venus also takes longer to rotate on its on axis than it does to complete an orbit of the Sun. That is 243 Earth days to rotate once. It only takes 224.7 Earth days to complete one orbit of the Sun. Another unusual fact about Venus is that it spins clockwise on its axis.
The photo I took was of the rusting containers at Bray beach in County Wicklow. My photo displays everyday science because the rusting of iron is a chemical reaction called oxidation.
Rusting occurs around us everyday. When the iron is exposed to moisture and oxygen iron begins to rust, due to the containers being situated by the sea this accelerates the rate of oxidation. Oxidation occurs much faster by the sea because the air contains minute salt particles which speeds up the rusting process. The sea water helps iron react with oxygen by breaking up the oxygen molecules. During the initial stages of rusting, iron loses electrons and oxygen gains electrons. Rust is nontoxic so it doesn’t show any indication of environmental hazards. Although some see rusting as a negative thing, I think in a circumstance like this rust can add character and aesthetics to the area.
These Sea walls are a ‘hidden gem’ by the Bangor Pier. These Rows and columns of circular pieces pf concrete are very easy to miss and requires a bit of a trek to get a glimpse of it. Quite frankly this doesn’t do it Justice, as it is absolutely mesmerizing to look at! These seawalls stretch as far as the eye can see and protect the pier from all types of environmental damages, from corrosion, structural collapse, etc… They have been engineered to withstand against violent storms and harsh hail quite well whilst looking like something aliens made! Their circular pattern allows a little bit of sea water to filter through and then disperse as to increase the longevity of the concrete and to decrease corrosion in the natural environment around it.
Many people hear the word maths and immediately believe that they can't do it but many everyday skills require a lot of mathematical knowledge. Skills such as playing the piano or any instrument for that matter require a lot of mathematical skill whether you believe it or not.
Music sounds so beautiful as patterns such as rhythm and pitch make it that way. Music can be understood as different sequences of notes that make up a specific pattern. Reading music even resembles reading maths symbols. In sheet music each stave begins with a fraction like symbol known as the time signature and each note gets its own shape symbolizing how long it should be played for. The time signature tells us how many beats are in a bar so when playing music we must add up all the note values to ensure we have the correct amount of beats in each bar. Both music and maths follow rules and processes for understanding the patterns, such as equations or time signatures. Recognizing patterns in maths and music is a valuable problem solving skill. So I guess all musicians are subconsciously performing mathematical functions as they play music, therefore whether you believe it or not all musicians are somewhat mathematicians.
In this picture that I took at our local railway station of the pedestrian bridge.
You can see hexagons, on the bridge. There is actually circles but because of the gap between each side, a moiré pattern has formed and created the hexagons that you can now see. A moiré pattern is form when the same pattern is put over each other and moved slightly or if there is space between each pattern.
Natural Science - Plant Reproduction aided by the Humble Bumblebee!! New plants grow from seeds and seeds come from flowers. Flowers have sex cells inside them and to make a seed, a male cell must join with a female cell. Inside a flower:-
The stamen has a bulge at the end which holds thousands of tiny grains of pollen. There is a male cell in each grain and when the bulge splits open, the pollen grains fall out. The carpel has a space inside where tiny eggs grow. The eggs are called ovules and there is a female cell in each one. The carpel has a sticky end called a stigma and the pollen stick to this. The petals may be brightly coloured to attract insects and the nectary contains nectar which is a sugary food which insects love! Before a male cell can join with a female cell, pollen must get across to a stigma and stick to it. This is called pollination. Usually the pollen is carried across to another flower by the wind or by insects. The insects fly from flower to flower looking for food and as they do so they get covered in pollen and carry it with them. After pollination a pollen tube grows out of a grain and down towards an ovule. A male cell passes down the tube and joins with a female cell.
Autumn is a time where we appreciate and observe the spectacular natural beauty and the burst of beautiful colours before winter arrives. Leaf colour comes from three pigmants: chlorophyll (green)–a biomolecule that absorbs energy from sunlight and gives leaves their green colour, carotenes (yellow) and anthocyanins (reds/pinks). As the bright green fades away, we begin to see yellow and orange colours just like the picture I have taken.
Small amounts of these colours have been in the leaves all along but we just can't see them in the summer as the green chlorophyll covers them up. The beginning of a leaf drop is known as abscission (a layer of cells formed between where the leaf stalk joins the stem). The abscission layer is formed in the spring during active new growth. In autumn, the hormone auxin begins to change. Short days and cool temperature makes auxin production in leaves decrease and in result causes cellular elongation within the abscission layer, this creates fracture and allows the leaf to break away from the plant/tree. Lastly, leaves are then freely blown away by the wind or fall from their own weight as seen in the image I took. A tree without leaves is in a state of dormancy, needs less energy to be alive. Leafless trees tolerate strong winds better because the wind passes through the braches.
From a giant forest fire to a pandemic, to the US elections; 2020 has been quite the rollercoaster. But what was the highlight? Ah yes, it was when hundreds of bewildered shoppers started hoarding toilet paper! Being bored out of my mind in the middle of quarantine, I’d created a new robot to add to my collection of utterly useless inventions.
Discovering an old dust-collecting computer mouse that I found at the bottom of my underwear drawer, I realized I could take advantage of the optical sensor in the mouse via an Arduino. With the mouse sensor strapped onto the top, horizontally to the toilet paper, it’s possible to single out data from the positive-negative x axis. As we roll the toilet paper the mouse will send data to the Arduino every one millionth of a second, allowing the Arduino to add up the values and calculate how much distance has been travelled along the sensor – or how much toilet paper has been used. Rolling the toilet paper the other way will cause the mouse to output negative values which would subtract from the total distance. When a certain distance in the positive axis has been attained the Arduino will move a servo motor located behind the toilet paper to lock the mechanism that allowed the roll to move freely, preventing the user from taking any more toilet paper.
Despite being known as the "loneliest creature on earth" whales are often ones to participate in massive feeding operations, at least when they don't have to do any work.
It starts with the sea birds who find the fish and start to herd the fish on the surface of the water so they can eat them more easily. Often dolphins will join in seeing as part of the work is already done, herding the fish deeper in the water up towards the surface and right when they are about to start their meal and uninvited guest arrives... a humpback whale from the depths flies towards the surface scooping up all of the fish in one go, leaving the other animals who worked had to gather the fish is a state of shock and no doubt annoyance, to pick up the scraps that are left.
I did this experiment because of the NHS. The rainbow in a jar experiment is about density.
Density is the measure of mass per unit volume. In this experiment, water, sugar and coloured food dye was used. The coloured food dye was less dense than the sugar, so the red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple food dye floated on top of the water. The density of water is 997 kg/m³ so the coloured dye floated on top of the water as the water had a higher density than the food dye.
“Snowy Tablecloth” I took this photograph of a literal, ‘snowy’ white tablecloth, after an overnight skiff of snow. It immediately grabbed my attention because it looked so ordinary, yet extraordinary at the same time, and brilliantly demonstrates physics in all its glory.
Firstly, the absence of snow on the sandstone patio, despite a perfectly circular snowy layer on the glass table top, demonstrates how materials differ in their thermal conductivity. The warmer sandstone tiles transferred heat into the overlying colder snow causing it to melt, whereas the cooler glass did not transfer heat energy thus allowing its snowy drape to remain frozen. Secondly, I was able to slide the snow covering over the glass with remarkable ease so that it hung over the edge of the table with cloth like folds. This ease of movement can be largely explained by the low coefficient of static and kinetic friction of ice on glass, as well as a decrease in adhesion strength due to a high liquid water content of the snow. Finally, the ‘snowy tablecloth’ demonstrates how wet sticky snow is required in order for snow crystals to stick together and form a strong cohesive sheet. It is the liquid water in snow that determines whether it is powdery and dry or sticky and wet.
The moon is located 38,400 km from earth but even from here we can still admire its beauty.
I wouldn’t really call myself a selenophile but whenever I see it I can’t help but admire its complexion apart from when it’s full and I’m trying to view something with my telescope or see a meteor shower. In this photo you can see the Copernicus crater as well as the Sea of rains in the bottom half which would be viewed at the top with the naked eye but because of the mirror diagonals it is flipped. You can also see Tycho and smaller craters caused from meteorites and asteroids over its lifetime. In the top left the sea of Serenity and Tranquility which appears slightly blue due to the titanium enriched minerals in the rocks and soils.
Fingerprints the keystone to our identity Fingerprints, an original one-of-a-kind set of loops, whirls and arches that make us unique. These distinct patterns remain consistent with age and it is because of this that fingerprint analysis is a major area of forensic science today.
First used as a form of identification by Sir Francis Galton established the first classification system for fingerprints. He was also the first to assert that no two prints are the same, and that the odds of two prints being identical were about 1 in 64 billion. Latent prints are formed when the body’s natural oils and sweat on the skin are deposited onto another surface. they are photographed in high resolution with a forensic measurement scale in the image for reference. To make my fingerprint in the picture more visible I took a photograph of my fingerprint on the surface of a mirror, I also used powered chalk as it stuck to the sweat on my fingerprint and made it easier to photograph. Another benefit to coating the fingerprint in powder is that it allows you to collect and transport the print using a clear adhesive tape.
The flower in the photo is a butterfly plant the alive flower is producing nectar for the butterfly and is going through photosyntheais that is caused by the sun which helps the flower survive. The butterfly is attracted to the flower by the smell of it's nectar while the other flower is decaying and hasn't a nice smell producing from it a few reasons why the flower has decayed are lack of water, temperature or the butterfly has pollinated the al
The leaves around them also have a science of their own. The leaves go through photosynthesis there are veins in the leaves taht transport water to and out of the plant and transport sugars to the rest of the plant. The butterfly feeds off the nectar with it's tounge but their younger aren't used to taste the nectar instead their feet are due to the sensors on them. The butterfly's body is covered in sensory hairs. A butterfly's wings and the way their covered in scales help them fly. Their colours are to disguise themselves as leaves ECT.... their colours are a defence mechanism against predators. Their body is in three parts and is a Skelton on the outside. They have eyes on the sides of their heads with is like a microscope. Their antennas help them find their way around, locate each other and even help them tell the time of day.
This chiselled benchmark carved by staff from the Ordnance Survey on a church at Holycross, Co. Tipperary, stands as a silent testament to the tireless work of the surveyors and geographers who mapped Ireland in the 19th century. This benchmark, at 308.9 feet above sea level, demonstrates how fixed points were used to plot heights when surveying.
In measuring and mapping the country and transferring this data to printed maps, it shows the wide range of STEM principles utilised by the Ordnance Survey. The benchmark was a standard symbol, from which any engineer or surveyor could calculate heights to assist with road works or planning in communities all around Ireland. In using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology today, the Ordnance Survey show how it has adapted to technological change and are as relevant in our modern world as they were when mapping our country almost 200 years ago, when established in 1824. GPS coordinates can now be captured on my mobile phone using data sent to it from satellites which circle the globe. It is a far cry from the early pioneers who chiselled this benchmark into Tipperary limestone.
All types of chilli peppers contain a drug called capsaicin, which makes them taste “hot”. Capsaicin activates the protein TRPV1, which senses heat, in the body’s cells. When this protein detects heat, the brain is alerted. The brain responds by making the affected body part feel a sensation of pain.
In reality, chillies trick our brain into thinking that we are being burned. Chillies have apparently evolved to trick certain animals, like mammals, to keep them away from eating the main fruit, the seeds, because we crush the seeds with our teeth and destroy them. Other animals, like birds, are not tricked in the same way as they swallow the seeds whole and so excrete them onto the soil and therefore, the chilli plant species survives. However, many humans still consume chillies, despite the painful sensation it produces in our mouths.
Marbles to me represent a person’s self-control and stability, both emotionally and physically. It is said that they can help provide individuals with support during difficult times and focusing on them encourages positive energy for emotional improvement and creating inner peace.
The quote “The way light is broken up into component colours when it passes through a prism. I felt like a refraction of a person. So many different shades that layer to create the illusion of a solid thing.” by Graham Moore has been an inspiration for me in this photograph. The quote suggests to me that the reflection of light that refracts from the marble can represent the light within a person and their different layers. In my photograph, the two lamps that I have used create a set of eyes. The shape of the marble could represent the universe through these small glass balls and a way of bringing life back to earth as a symbol of the circle of life. The theme of my art research this year is Location, in this photograph my sense of location is the space within my own being.
In my research I have been exploring the work of Beatrix Potter. I am really interested in her scientific illustrations which explore her methods of analysis. I think this scientific approach reinforced the strength of her artwork and her understanding of the mechanics of Biology. ‘’I cannot rest, I must draw, however poor the result, and when I have a bad time come over me it is a stronger desire than ever’’ Potter is quoted as saying.
Her need to illustrate each piece of nature she comes across reinforces how beautiful everything in the world really is despite how they are first perceived I believe flowers, as they feed many animals and are of great value to nature. Flowers play an important role in the reproduction of a plant as they attract outside insects in the hopes of continuing pollination and can also supply many with natural medicines. Flowers add colour and give those around them a happy atmosphere. The flower photographed here is the only one left in the garden of our school as winter approaches. These flowers finally wither and die in the cold season, their flush of colour only temporary. Their absense then encourages healthy development and new flowers to flourish. For me this single flower symbolises the last element of hope and positivity as we head in to the darker months. Something that Beatrix Potter would have been inspired to capture in her drawing.