Dr. Blake Martin Ontario Sparks Mentorship Session

On Thursday, September 17,  four lucky high school students were given the opportunity to spend an hour chatting to Dr. Blake Martin, a York University neuroscientist who studies biomechanics, kinesiology, physiology and motor learning and control as they relate to dance.

Check out what Shaharzad Wali, a Grade 12 Ontario Ambassador, had to say about the session!

I think I now irrevocably associate peanut-butter-chocolate-chip cookies with Sparks Sessions.

Kidding. (Not really.) Let’s backtrack a little.

On Thursday the 17th I once again made the 1 hour drive to Toronto on Science-Expo business. I’d been to a Sparks Session before, back in May, and I enjoyed it so much I couldn’t help myself from applying again. This time, five Ontario Ambassadors including myself were scheduled to sit and chat with Dr. Blake Martin, who holds – get this – a PhD in Kinesiology, a Graduate Diploma in Neuroscience, a B.F.A. and M.A. in dance, and a bachelor of education. Besides teaching in York University’s Dance Science Certificate program, he speaks provincially, nationally and internationally on issues related to yoga, arts, the brain, anatomy, and classroom management.

To meet and freely ask questions to a person this rounded in their knowledge was truly an exciting experience. As usual, I’d done my reading prior to the session, and was pleasantly surprised to find neuroscience as part of the picture! This was, admittedly, my reasons for making the stretch to Jimmy’s Coffee downtown on a school night (aside from their peanut-butter-chocolate-chip cookies—the joke is, I ate one during my first Session and I still haven’t forgotten how good they were, but I digress!). However, very soon into the casual coffee-time Session I realized those who spread themselves over many interests don’t exactly mark beginnings and endings. Knowledge, rather than being organized in one’s mind by headings and subheadings, is perpetually fluid. Dr. Martin spoke about neuroscience simultaneously with kinesiology, movement, and then with dance, creativity, and combined the whole in a discussion about modern education. I found it inspiring how one person was able to pursue so many things, and in the end, bring them together in a harmonious amalgam and still have the energy to talk about each at length and large. The open, natural drift of conversation was something I really enjoyed (and it also enabled me to bombard the mentor with questions).

Dr. Blake was engaging all throughout. And the session lasted over two hours! As a neuroscientist he was extremely passionate about matters of the brain and cognition, something I really appreciated. What I ultimately obtained from this session was not exactly practical knowledge. Rather, I bettered an abstract understanding of how to approach my goals and passions. Through the sheer enthusiasm Dr. Martin imbued in every word he spoke about the mind and body, or neural processes, or styles and approaches to education, I understood what a faith in your passion for your career, or interest, looks like. I daresay it impacted my plans for my future, in reaffirming my love for neuroscience. All in all, I’d call this Session a success.

Here’s what some other attendees had to say:

“I loved it! It was very cozy and comfortable with just 6 people sitting around a table. I loved the informality of the meeting and especially Dr. Martin, who was awesome.”

“I thought it was very inspiring to meet someone who was able to truly follow his passions, and continues to do his job because he genuinely enjoys it.

“It was amazing to meet someone so passionate about their work. Dr. Martin’s research interests are fascinating.”

Myth Buster – Are windows from cathedrals actually melting?

By: Akshaya, Science Expo Ontario

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You’ve probably seen medieval European cathedrals and have observed the glass. You’ve probably assumed that glass is a liquid, and that since it was hard, you must have assumed further that it was a “super cooled” liquid. This was probably all from internet myths that even chemistry teachers might’ve believed, because the glass panes were thicker at the bottom in medieval windows. Glass, believe it or not, is neither a “super cooled” liquid nor solid!

The Science Behind it:
Glass is an amorphous solid – basically, a state in between liquid and solid. However, this still doesn’t explain the thicker bottomed window because the particles in glass move too slowly for visible changes to occur. This is because solids have a highly organized particle structure, and the millions of atoms are lined up in rows. In that sense, glasses and liquids are both a little disorganized, but amorphous solids are more organized than liquids, but don’t have as rigid of a structure as solids.

When glass is made, the material is cooled from its liquid state quickly, but it doesn’t become a solid when its temperature becomes cooler that a melting point. Technically, the material could be called a “super cooled” liquid, because it’s an immediate state between liquid and glass. For it to become an amorphous solid, it needs to be cooled even more. At this point, movement of the material’s particles slows down and it becomes a glass. Glass is a solid for purposes such as holding a drink, but it’s a disorganized one.

Because it is a disorganized solid, glass can flow a little, extremely slowly. A mathematical model shows that it would take longer than the existence of the universe for room temperature glass from a cathedral to appear melted.

So clearly melting isn’t an option, so you’re probably wondering why the cathedrals look like they’ve been melting. It was most likely because the glass pieces were never all uniformly flat, and the builders decided to put the thicker ones at the bottom of the windows for better support. Looks can be deceiving, and glass certainly isn’t a liquid.