“Grubletegninger” — using sketches presenting alternative explanations of a situation to spark discussions

In my personal #SciCommChallenge, one thing on my things-to-try list were “grubletegninger” — pondering sketches, or sketches to ponder. It’s a format developed in Norway and there is quite a collection available at (And that my sketches below happen to be on a Norway-themed note pad is pure coincidence :-))

The idea is that the sketch of a situation is given, along with a couple of people who each give a statement explaining the situation. For example on the topic of whether a sundial can be used in both hemispheres, the characters state things like “yes, you just have to position it the other way round”, “yes, if you swap the numbers”, “no, because the sun moves in the opposite direction”, “it will work, but with a 12 hour offset”.

This can then be used to spark discussion in a student group. Since many possible misconceptions are made explicit on the sketch itself, it is easy for students to identify with one of the answers and explain why they think that it is the correct one. It is also useful to use answers to argue against, to use them as a starting point for experimentation, to bridge between school science and the real world. I really like this format and think it could be a very useful tool in science outreach, too!

And I think making many different possible answers explicit is actually the most important feature of this tool. My first Grubletegning-sketch (which I did based on a vage memory and before checking out the website) is not nearly as good for sparking thoughts and discussions as it could be if it was laying out different lines of argumentation!

Of course, in the end it is not very different from a multiple-choice exercise, with the different distractors giving the different answer options. But how much more appealing is it when combined with a nice sketch, and actual people (albeit sketched ones) giving the answers, rather than your teacher giving you one correct answer and a couple false ones, and not telling you which one is which? I think this might actually be an excellent tool in outreach to engage people in discussions.

And I am looking forward to coming up with situations that could be used for grubletegninger, and to actually sketching them in a slightly nicer way than I did above. I am trying out a sketch pad next weekend, there might be a huge increase in the quality of graphics on this blog in the near future ;-) Or not, we’ll see ;-)

energie:labor at European Researchers’ Night 2017

Yesterday Alice and I spent the afternoon and evening in the cute coastal town of Eckernförde, enjoying the summer-y weather, the Baltic Sea, and — of course! — the science outreach. It was European Researchers’ Night!

We represented the energie:labor and our research group by entertaining many many people in our little blue tent:

The goal was to engage the public in thinking about physics, particularly about energy. What better tool to use than a thermal imaging camera?

I’ve talked about the many ways you can play with that sort of camera before (see here), but last night was special. To catch people’s eyes and engage children as well as grown-ups, we had prepared a couple of fun experiments, for example hitting gummi bears with a hammer and observing how that changes the temperature.

Despite the large media interest we didn’t make the local newspaper’s front page today ;-)

To get an impression of how much fun we had, watch the movie below. This was an hour before the official opening of the event, and the last seconds we had to actually do things ourselves before we got run over by curious crowds. Who knew that people are so keen on learning physics? ;-)

Thanks, Alice, we are a great team and I had so much fun! :-)

Some things are better left unseen — research shows that watching yourself in a video meeting is not a good thing

I’m a big fan of virtual meetings: For planning outreach activities taking place in France with a team in Norway while sitting in my office in Germany (see here, and definitely check out the product of that planning meeting, Elin Darelius’ & Team’s blog from a 13-m-diameter rotating tank!), when giving a lecture in Iceland from my office in Norway (see here), or even when taking examinations via Skype when sitting in Nadine’s apartment in Norway and the panel was sitting in Germany (see here).

BUT I’ve known it all along: It makes me less focussed on the discussions in a Skype meeting when I can see myself. Because I start thinking about how people on the other end perceive me, if they are wondering about what’s in the shelves behind me, whether the angle of the camera is as bad as it feels. Or, as Hassell & Cotton (2017) write, objective self-awareness increases, as does cognitive load. In a laboratory study, they find that “seeing one’s own feed during video mediated communication does make a difference, and it can be detrimental to task performance”.

Interesting! So next time I’m in a video conference, I’ll just put a post-it note on my screen to cover my face. Problem solved! Or maybe then I’ll only wonder about what the other side is seeing… But it’s worth a try!


Response of the ACC to climate change #scipoem

The response of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to recent climate change*

Around and around the southern pole
The Antarctic Circumpolar Current, inspiring
Around and around the southern pole
Seemingly without a goal
Going east, east, east, untiring
East, east, east, admiring!
Around and around the southern pole

Around and around the southern pole
To “the mightiest of all ocean currents” people bowed
Around and around the southern pole
In the Southern Ocean playing the most important role
Despite going slowly, it has never slowed
Enormous amounts of water have flowed
Around and around the southern pole

Around and around the southern pole
Up to 2 kilometres wide
Around and around the southern pole
2 to 4 km deep the flow, no shoal
putting Atlantic, Indic, Pacific, side by side,
connecting them with an enormous tide
Around and around the southern pole

Around and around the southern pole
No continents are in it’s way, by winds the whole is driven
Around and around the southern pole
Blending the world’s oceans’ waters in its endless stroll
Oceans that otherwise are riven
Its importance for climate is given
Around and around the southern pole

Around and around the southern pole
As climate changes, so does the driving wind field
Around and around the southern pole
But studies show that on the whole
Despite the ocean being exposed to winds without shield
In total no changes to the current are yield’d
Around and around the southern pole

*Inspired by an article by Böning, Dispert, Visbeck, Rintoul & Schwarzkopf (2008). This poem’s form is called “rondelet”.

Volcano tour on Terceira

This is neither “oceanography” nor “teaching”, but so much “adventure” that these pictures still deserve their spot on “Adventures in oceanography and teaching”. I did a tour into two (non-active ;-)) volcanoes and it was AMAZING!

Candles in the wind. Or: The things that keep a nerd entertained during speeches at a conference dinner.

What keeps you entertained at conference dinners is probably different for different people, but we quite enjoyed watching how the candles placed closer to the door to the balcony burned a lot faster (and a lot more messy) than those on other tables…

Ask me anything! on October 18th #OceanAMA

Hi! I am Mirjam. We are investigating ocean currents in a 13-m-diameter swimming pool that sits on a merry-go-round. Ask me anything!

I will be hosting an “Ask Me Anything” event!

I am a member of Elin Darelius’ team of scientists. We are investigating ocean currents near Antarctica — by doing scientific experiments in a 13-m-diameter rotating water tank in Grenoble, France. Ask me how experiments in water tanks can tell us something about ocean currents; how we usually observe ocean currents from ships; what it is like to work with an international team in a foreign country; how you become an ocean scientist; anything else you want to know! Looking forward to hearing from you! :-)

To ask me anything, you can either leave comments below or head over to my page on OceanAMA and ask questions there. I will be answering them from Grenoble on October 18th!


#scipoem on an Darelius et al. article about ice shelves

“Observed vulnerability of Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf to wind-driven inflow of warm deep water”*

Let’s talk ab’t a favourite paper
“Observed vulnerability of Filchner-
Ronne Ice Shelf to
wind-driven inflow
of wa(-a-a-a-a)rm deep water”

An ice shelf is ice that is floating
on top of the sea as it’s flowing
down from a continent
this one is prominent
more ar’onl’ the Ross Shelf is coating.

In oc’nographers’ jargon, “deep water”
(as we learned by heart at my alma mater)
are defined by their propertie’
and live in the deep, deep sea
and currently they are getting hotter.

But “warm” is a relative measure
bathing in it would be no pleasure
it’s temperature typically
less than just one degree!
Go measure yourself at your leisure!

As winds weaken now during summer
warm water, like led by a plumber,
climbs up the continent
and can now circumvent
sills and reach ice from under.

If temperatures rise as projected
a lot of the ice will be ‘ffected.
Raising the lev’l o’ sea,
changing hydrography,
which needs to be further dissected.

Because of its climatic impact
which Elin has now shown to be fact
we need close observation
of deep water formation
so all changes can carefully be tracked.

*that’s the title of an article by (Elin) Darelius et al. (2016) which served as inspiration for this poem.

Whale watching on the Azores

Whale watching on Terceira was A-MAH-ZING. We saw three different kinds of dolphins: Bottle-nose, common and spotted. But what you should really be doing once you are done swooning over all the pictures below: go over to Elin Darelius & team’s blog and read about what is going on with the 13-m-diameter rotating tank! :-)





















And here is a video. Be careful you don’t get sea sick — it was impossible to hold the camera steady on a moving boat, plus I was too excited to care much about it ;-)