Off with its head! International plugs you SHOUD NOT be stuffing into our power sockets

SPRING Singapore has a advisory of the types of mains plugs you should be using here [pdf]

Read also the Electrical Safety Foundation International [Extension Cord Safety Fact Sheet (2010)]

It will help prevent fires.

Examples of Non-Approved Mains Plugs
L–R: Flat-blade plug, Schuko plug with side grounding contact, Schuko plug with side grounding contact, 10/16-Amp round pin, Flat-blade but with round grounding pin, Flat- blade but with round grounding pin

“Otters of the World,” a new book by Paul and Grace Yoxon (Aug 2014)

I met Paul Yoxon at the Otter Colloquim in South African in 1993 and already then learnt how he intended to translate the interest and support of people in the UK for otters, into conservation work around the globe.

He told me then, “how can you not love otters?”

Since then, I have followed the work of Paul and Grace Yoxon at the International Otter Survival Fund and seen how they have worked with concerned people globally to help all 13 species of otters in 31 countries.

Indeed IOSF funded the search for the hairy-nosed otter in southern Thailand in 1998, at a time when we not sure if we had lost the species.

Now they announce their new book to be published in August, called “Otters of the World” which will raise awareness about otters and highlight the threats they face. They have a wealth of experience and massive amounts of photos, so I am looking forward to this!

Pre-order the book (~S$33) from the Book Depository, Amazon UK, Amazon US or the Ottershop in the UK.

All proceeds will fund otter conservation.

I’ve already ordered my first three copies!

Otters of the world

Semester-end and the Farewell FTTA Amanda Tan party

We had an end of Semester party at the S2-04 office last Friday and the potluck session served as a farewell to Full-time TA Amanda Tan, who will be moving on to MOE.

I am not even sure who organised it, I just added my contribution of pesto pasta to the list on the white board and sorted out postal code woes so that the delivery man would get to me in time.

It was the last day of the Reading Week and a stop work order for safety review was in place in NUS. The sight of the many of us in a room for the first time this semester, was an unusual sight, as was the spread of food.

Squeezing us all into a single shot was a bit of a challenge, but even a selfie was possible once we were clustered. We must make this a regular exercise!

2014 04 25 13 22 ATHN speech

2014 04 25 13 24 Group photo no selfie

2014 04 25 13 25 Group photo frontal

2014 04 25 13 25 selfie

New at the Singapore Science Centre – guided tours!

At the Science Centre Singapore on Saturday for the X-Science Symposium, some of SCS’ friendly staff dropped by to chat with us, and informed us of upcoming tours. Tours? At the Science Centre?

I was surprised, and they said, yes, this is something new.

A tours is a excellent idea for visitors to join to get a feel of the displays and interactive exhibits there. The friendly and energetic staff are well tuned to their mostly young visitors and that makes them very approachable. Adults who may need some time to shed their inhibition will get into the spirit of exploration with encouragement of these guides.

You can see how Jannah here readily posed with the boards! A guide always make a big difference and I’m glad to see these tours introduced.

All tours begin at the Turnstile of the Main Entrance and are conducted in English. Note the specific times for weekdays and weekends. The Science Centre is open from 10am to 5pm daily and is closed on 05 May; 18 Aug & 13 Oct 2014 for maintenance.

Weekday Tours
Every Tue – Fri (except public holidays) @ 11am & 2pm

Weekend Tours
Every Sat & Sun (except public holidays) @ 11am

What’s the postal code at our department? Good enough for pesto to find us?

NUS postal codes have never been aligned with the correct building for years. I have used a variety of codes to bring delivery men to the vicinity Science Drive 4 and then to call me to get zeroed in. This is very important for pizza but sometimes pesto too.

Last Thursday night, I emailed my LSM1303 animal behaviour students about their exam next Wednesday. I insert a map link just in case there are location-challenged students and checked a few online maps just in case. I liked how highlighted the MPSH5 building in red and with a caption pointed to the building with a “Right Here”.

How satisfying!

Multi Purpose Hall (MPSH5) @ & Recreation Centre - National University Of Singapore (Sports) - 2 Sports Drive 1 (S)117561

As I clicked on buildings, I saw that an address complete with postal code was suggested.

On Friday we had a pot luck for our very first end of semester/farewell party. FTTA Amanda Tan picked pesto from Spizza as my contribution and since their deliverymen might be whonew to our part of campus, I decided to check the 117543 postal code I’ve been using for the past few years. To my surprise it points to Block S16 at Science Drive 1!

So I turned to Street and looked for Block S2. After trying a series of six-digit numbers, it was 117557 which was closes and indicate it to be 14 Science Drive 4 which we put on out letter heads. That location actually plots onto the S2 backyard, facing the ridge, but I figured an enterprising delivery man would be able to find me at Level 4 of Block S2.

14 Science Drive 4 (Commercial Building) - (S)117557

And lo and behold, the delivery man did indeed turn up at my table!

Well he was slightly flustered after some apparently hopeless wandering. But he turned up at my table! Having fed years of Coastal Cleanup Zone Captains with pizza after our annual cleanups in August and September, I can attest to the fact this has never happened before! He sure did earn his tip.

So the 117557 postal code might not be accurate enough for a drone strike, but it is good enough for pesto!

P.S. Sing Post has a postal code finder (on smart phone too) which validates this address and points it at our backyard. As long as the pesto gets to us.

Quick Guide & Others

Seeing the sign at the X-Science Symposium 2014

The Science Communication MW5202 class were serious about time discipline this year. So we the audience were comfortable at the X-Science Symposium over four sessions with clear breaks and time to stretch our legs. Visitors were able to sign up for specific sessions to come and support their friends or family with times indicated in the programme.

Still, everyone can do with a reminder., especially if an audience is egging you on and you might get comfortable instead of moving on. Well, positioned at the back of the Mendel Auditorium at the Singapore Science Centre this year were appropriately threatening messages.

These were being flagged at the speaker at suitable times, and this one below is my favourite.

Did the audience know? Well, they might have missed the signs, intent as they were on the speaker. As their examiner, I was watching and listening to them intently, and sometimes caught a fleeting but startled expression on their faces. This was followed by a hurried delivery to th finish.

They had seen the sign!

2014 04 26 13 30 The Sign
The Science Minion means business!

This year’s theme was superheroes
X-Science Symposium 26 Apr 2014

Last year’s pioneer session at the Singapore Science Centre was called Bucket Science by the Wizards of Science.

The evening kill

The cats need an outlet after being cooped up all day. They are very active before their evening meal and mildly active after. After a day of snoozing, it’s to be expected.

Here is Xylo the cat in ecstasy as he takes down a kill, before midnight.

I can feel his canines clamp into position and gently apply enough pressure to pin the hand but not enough to tear the skin.

He is skillful, this one.

The cats get drowsy midway through the night sometimes and then become active once again at dawn – by sitting on my chest, unblinkingly, and vocally demand for food.


Job: Full-time Teaching Assistant (FTTA) for Undergraduate Courses for Life Sciences (deadline: 23 May 2014)

Full-time Teaching Assistant (FTTA)
Undergraduate Courses for Life Sciences (Biodiversity and Ecology)
Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore (NUS)
Application Deadline: Friday 23 May 2014

The Department of Biological Sciences is inviting applications for the post of Full-Time Teaching Assistant (FTTA) for Life Sciences undergraduate modules, in field of Biodiversity, Ecology and Basic Molecular Biology.

The FTTA will be working as a team with professors and laboratory officers to achieve holistic goals for undergraduate education in NUS. The FTTA must possess familiarity with administration and data management, be digitally competent, be consultative and exhibit leadership with peers, understand undergraduate student issues, be communicative and a team player and be passionate about teaching.

Applicants must read the Selection Criteria carefully and address each of the points stated.
Incomplete applications will not be evaluated.

The specific duties of the FTTA include:

  • Teaching undergraduate students in biodiversity, ecology and animal behaviour,
  • Manage communication and administrative needs of modules,
  • Recruit, train and supervise Part-Time TAs,
  • Oversee scheduling of field trips and laboratory practical sessions,
  • Undertake and manage all continual assessments (CAs),
  • Initiate improvements to management and pedagogy with advice and support from module coordinators.

The appointment will commence in July 2014. This appointment is a one-year contract, and is renewed based on performance.

Selection Criteria

  • A Bachelor (Honors) Degree in Life Sciences or in a relevant field, practical related experience is desirable;
  • Demonstrated understanding of the department’s research focus and teaching environment;
  • Strong interpersonal skills to provide high quality student-focused services;
  • Demonstrated ability to take initiative and work independently, prioritizing workload and meeting deadlines with minimal supervision;
  • Evidence of experience in the successful supervision of undergraduate and/or postgraduate research students;
  • An ability to convey information in both teaching and research in a clear, concise and interesting manner;
  • Demonstrated ability to work cooperatively as a member of a team and manage groups at the undergraduate level;
  • Experience in administrative processes, with high attention to accuracy and detail;
  • Demonstrated skills with the Microsoft Office Suite and Google Docs.

Closing Date: Friday 23 May 2014

Applications are accepted via email only. Applicants must send a cover letter, a note addressing the selection criteria and curriculum vitae stating three referees. Reference letters will be required only after applicants are shortlisted for interview. Send all applications to:

Mr. Laurence Gwee
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Announcing the Science Communication Symposium 2014 at Singapore Science Centre, Sat 26 Apr 2014: 10am – 4pm

Students from the MSc Science Comm (MW5202) programme at NUS have organised a symposium to showcase their projects about science communication with demo.

This creative and organised group have introduced a superhero theme to their symposium through rapid exchanges over What’s App, GDocs and action on the ground.

Organising a symposium is an important skill to promote science communication. There are fewer competent Organisers than there are science speakers. Putting a symposium together in a short time is thus an important final exercise of the module. And it’s always lovely seeing the feeling of intrigue and smiles on the faces of the audience!

Join them at this fun and interesting event this Saturday, at the Science Centre Singapore.

Meet the superheroes here!

To register, please go to

And yes, there’s lunch!