Friends from Conflict Zones Showing the World a Better Way.


Photo shows myself and my colleagues from Iran, Iraq, Kashmir, Libya and Yemen enjoying each other’s happy companionship at our workplace café. Though their homelands and their families are suffering from conflict-be it in the form of occupation, bombings, oppression, civil war, invasion, ethnic discrimination, religious discrimination, economic sanctions…, nevertheless here in Ireland these lovely individuals are united in friendship. This is as it should be.
It makes me feel hopeful that our species will ultimately become ‘civilised’, and that humanity will be bonded together by peace, equality and respect. Since time immemorial, too often we have allowed individuals to take control by using diversity in culture, religion, ethnicity, skin colour and gender to sow hostility and mutual distrust rather than as a strength and something that we should celebrate.
I am also proud that our university and our country (in spite of its many social and economic problems that need radical solutions) promotes tolerance and diversity. This is the view expressed by many of my present and former asylum seeker friends towards this country and city over the years. It is still at many levels an ‘Ireland of the Welcomes’, due I feel primarily to two reasons. Firstly we were until recently a nation of small farming villages portraying the friendliness of rural folk everywhere towards strangers. Secondly, as an occupied, oppressed and colonised country for 800+ years, many of us instinctively feel empathy towards other peoples that are victims of conflict.
But we have got to remember too that we are all neighbours living today in one global village and more than ever before we need to stand together against a common foe in a truly 'just' war, namely to save the planet from the ravages of human-induced Climate Chaos that we increasingly see every day. From the Arctic in the north to Australia in the south, the world is on fire.

Colin donates his favourite Pet to the museum!

 What a great start to 2020! We are pleased to announce that Colin Lafferty, one of museum’s most recent volunteers, has generously gifted us a working 1979-1980 Commodore PET 3032 computer complete with a C2N-B datasette cassette recorder, a Commodore 4040 5.25 inch floppy disk dual drive and a bundle of business and games software.

This is an amazing and welcome addition to our ‘hands-on’ collection the Age of the Microcomputer’.

The PET series is truly one of the great icons of the computing world, its distinctive shape forever associated with television and movies, especially of the science fiction genre, during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

For more information on this remarkable computer check out Colin’s blog at http://laffertycolin.blogspot.com

I would like to also point out that my good friend Colin could be referred to as a pioneering advocate of electronics communications and computing in Galway.  He was a founding member (vice-auditor) of the Computer Society (CompSoc) in 1978 at what was then the University College Galway/UCG (now NUI Galway/NUIG) and became its auditor in 1980.

Eglinton 'Direct Provision Centre' Galway- A Place of Hope & Friendship.

I would recommend everyone to read in full the very informative article by Stephen Corrigan in the Galway City Tribune newspaper that finally and publicly tells the truth about the Eglinton #DirectProvision Centre in Salthill Galway. It will be an eye-opener to those that have never been inside its doors and those who are afraid of such centres being built in their towns and neighbourhoods.
For far too long there have been rumours and false stories being spread about the Eglinton such as that a nightly curfew is imposed on residents, that there are no facilities, that no proper selection of foods is served, that staff and management are indifferent even hostile to residents etc. 
But these myths, based on the portrayal of the place being some sort of ‘inhumane’ prison camp, are an insult to both the people who work there and to those who live there.. As someone who has volunteered there almost on a weekly basis since 2004, I know most residents of the Eglinton over the years have recognised it as a place of sanctuary, of friendship and of community. So many of them tell me over and over again that Ireland provides a haven of peace far from the place of violence, racism, sectarianism, hatred, oppression, gang warfare, poverty or exploitation that their homelands have become; and that the Eglinton serves as a wonderful place of transition towards a better life for them and their families.
There is no doubt that this premises is indeed an old hotel that could do with a considerable injection of funding for a major overall renovation; that its owners (who I have never met in my 15 years there as a volunteer) make a nice profit from government grants; that personal living quarters are small with often up to three single people sharing rooms; and that the asylum-seeking process drags on for far too long leaving its applicants in a state of limbo. 
But the facility has a wide range of onsite facilities including a fine canteen, a state of the art pre-school, a community organic garden, a coffee bar, a function room for events such as Christmas (Santa's grotto for the kids) and birthday parties, an outdoor play area, and a computer room. Volunteers and residents will next weekend work together on completing a library. There is also a homework club for children, regular offsite activities for young and old, medical support and a weekly meeting every Friday evening where staff, residents, volunteers and support agencies get together to discuss issues, educational and recreational programmes as well as problems impacting on the lives of the Eglinton community. People from outside call every day to drop off gifts and meet residents. Whilst so many current occupants of the Eglinton are well known across Galway as volunteers in a range of city NGOs, from sporting to religious to environmental. 
One of the key strengths of the Eglinton is the high level of respect and friendship that exists between management (led by Patrick Mcgovern), staff and residents. It feels at times as if they are one very big family. A good example of the high esteem that staff are held in is that former residents regularly call in for a social chat with front line staff such as Carole Raftery.
The opening of such centres can actually benefit neighbourhoods. But of course local communities need to be consulted well in advance and local residents need to be brought to existing centres to see at first hand what they are like and how their occupants view them.
I wish all my friends at the Eglinton peace, friendship and prosperity for 2020

Highlights of Galway Science & Technology Festival- 'Today's Stories,Told Yesterday...'


The launch of the 1960s-1970s Science Fiction comics/films took place during the Galway Science and Technology Festival to complement the 'Secret Science of Superheroes' talks at Insight, Data Science Institute NUI Galway.
But also because, as the Festival's theme was "Climate Action", it was worth reminding people that current issues such as the devastation of oceanic pollution on marine life, environmental protests and man-made Global Catastrophe were also the concerns of teenagers and children fifty and forty years ago.

10 Years on, looking even better!


My fine son Dáire and lovely wife Cepta recently celebrated their birth days.
Ten years ago, Cepta was at Dáire's tenth birthday party in Galway Atlantaquaria, always one of his favourite haunts.
As you can see from a comparison between the December 2019 and December 2010 photos, the years have been good to them (unlike the father/husband!).
So here is wishing for another ten years of family togetherness!

Ruby of the Claddagh Shore


It was lovely to spend an evening over Christmas with the inspiring and environmentally-driven Ruby Lilly in a cleanup of the world renowned Claddagh seashore. Since the beginning of the year, Ruby (a true diamond!) has taken it upon herself to initiate and lead a local community drive to remove plastics, baby wipes, cans, bottles, fishing tackle and so much more from amongst the rocks, sands, seaweeds and grasses of the seashore.
It may deservedly have global fame but sadly Galway Bay is awash with the detritus of humanity.
Since time immemorial, our oceans, seas, lakes and rivers have been used as open sewers and dumping grounds. However since the modern era of plastics and agricultural pesticides, our life-giving waterways are becoming death zones to aquatic life. We know that one of the reasons why populations of birds, turtles, whales and dolphins are plummeting is because of the damage caused by plastics and other man-made debris. Galway-based third level science researchers discovered a few months that plastics were even found inside an array of microscopic creatures living in the deepest parts of the Atlantic Ocean. Sadly no part of the world is immune to the devastation caused by our species.
To support and highlight the great work of Ruby and other volunteers working in Galway’s parks, woodlands, bogs and seashores, there are plans being put in place to organise a large scale cross-sectoral city-wide clean-up of public lands in February as part of the National Park City initiative.
Details to follow after Christmas!

Jeremy Corbyn - the most vilified man in Britain

I extend my best wishes to Jeremy Corbyn in today's British elections.
In my lifetime I have never witnessed a British politician so vilified as Jeremy.
The British media(Sun, Times, Express, Mail, Telegraph...), largely owned by tax avoidance billionaires, fear him because of his commitment to make the rich pay their fair share of taxes to fund public services with the result that their news outlets consistently demonise him; large numbers of Labour MPs despise him because he exposed them (‘New Labour’) and their ex-leader Tony Blair for enthusiastically taking part in an illegal war under false pretences that led to the destruction of the Middle East and the death and displacement of millions of people; the right wing Israeli-funded UK politicians of all parties condemn the most anti-racist British veteran of the modern era with a trumped-charge of being anti-semite primarily because of his decades long support for Palestinians and a Palestine free of occupation and colonisation; the Unionists hate him because of his long term support of a United Ireland.
Jeremy has been a lifetime environmentalist, a campaigner against war and nuclear weaponry, for a more democratic EU, and an advocate for human rights and freedom of all oppressed peoples.
I have admired him since my youth when I remember him as a leading campaigner in the Anti-Apartheid and Nuclear Disarmament movements.
If truth, justice and honesty meant anything Jeremy would win today's British general election and be Prime Minister.
In a world beset by Climate Chaos, wars, a new arms race, increasing loss of citizens’ rights, unsustainable consumerism, intolerance, racism, growing inequality, biodiversity loss, and politicians serving greedy vested interests, we need visionary honourable progressive leaders like Jeremy Corbyn more than ever before.

Climate Action - 'Makers & Fixers' give a new lease of life to a 1980s MicroVax


Well done Gerry Kavanagh for bringing back to life a 1980 MicroVax mincomputer system manufactured by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).
Gerry assisted by Pat Moran has the computer running DEC's VMS (Virtual Memory System) operating system.
We hope to have the full system up and running at the museum by the end of next month.
In line with the Climate Action theme of the Galway Science and Technology Festival, our recent batch of recycling and upcycling repair projects at the museum are designed to reduce eWaste and to make computers and other communications equipment, that was otherwise considered obsolete and worthless, usable again.

Highlights of the Galway Science Fair: The Engaged Research of MSc students on Terryland Forest.


The MSc students studying Environmental Problems and Solutions students at NUI Galway hosted a very popular stand at the recent Science Fair, the finale of the great Galway Science and Technology Festival. It was always crowded thanks to the students ensuring that they had interactive aquatic and land fauna displays that intrigued people of all ages! This was indoors tabletop biodiversity awareness at its very best. So well done students one and all!

Working under the tutelage of our good friend Dr Caitriona Carlin, the MSc students have studied the ecology of Terryland Forest Park and have raised awareness of Terryland at various events.

At 3pm this Thursday (Dec 5th) in the Ballinfoile Castlegar Neighbourhood Centre, they are inviting people to take part in creating an action plan to make the park more accessible for the community and raise awareness of its value in terms of climate proofing Galway while also being an attractive, nature-based learning environment, especially for Galway's children and youth.

The aim of this workshop is to determine a future vision for Terryland in terms of nature, climate and human health and wellbeing.

Highlights of the Galway Science & Technology Festival: Computer Museum Tours & Talks.


I was overjoyed to be given the opportunity during the festival to offer a guided tour of the Computer & Communications Museum to St. Theresa's National School, Cashel Connemara, an educational institution that I am very close too for many years.
During the tour, the pupils were so attentive and asked me so many intelligent questions about the history of computing. But the tour was also an opportunity to meet up once again with the 'Special One', namely its principal Cepta Stephens.
Cepta is absolutely amazing in how she has helped transform this tiny school in south Connemara into a major contributor to so many competitions and public events, and wining accolades and awards in the process. Not surprisingly then that this school during the festival won the Galway Primary School Science Quiz at St. Mary's College, competing against schools that were so many times larger than it. In the last four years, they have also twice won awards at the Science Fair.
Keep working your magic Cepta!
Finally thanks to my good colleague Umair Ul Hassan for giving the pupils a presentation on his new research project entitled ‘Sharepair’, based on reducing Europe's fastest growing waste stream, namely electronic waste(eWaste).

Schools Making a Difference on Climate Action: Cleggan.

The children and teens of Galway city and county responded magnificently to the challenge of Climate Action with the result that we had the biggest number of schools ever exhibiting at the Galway Science Fair.
One of these schools was Scoil Náisiúnta na Naomh Uile, in the small sea village of Cleggan in north Connemara. 
Their project highlighted the volume of plastics in our oceans and the damage that it was doing to marine life
About 8 million metric tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year. Plastic is found in the deepest parts of the Altlantic Ocean. By 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish

After the Euphoria came a Desolation!


What a wonderful finale yesterday's Science Fair was to a fun-packed but meaningful two weeks of the Galway Science and Technology Festival, the largest series of events ever held in Ireland on the theme of Climate Action.
This theme was there for all of the 20,000+ visitors to witness yesterday in the lectures, workshops, debates and exhibits available across the wide expanse of the university campus.
The corporations, small companies, innovators, science communicators, educators, third level researchers, secondary schools, primary schools and youth clubs were joined this year for the first time by Community NGOs who are advocates of Citizen Science.
The enthusiasm for making a contribution in the battle against Climate Chaos was so evident, from the large corporate displays from the likes of Medtronic to the nine year old budding scientists demoing their classroom's renewable energy or biodiversity projects at a small rural school stand.
There are so many people to thank which I will endeavour to do so in series of postings over the next number of weeks.
I will start though with the hardworking on-the-ground behind-the-scenes team of committee members, staff and volunteers led by Simon Lenehan,Anne Murray (Festival manager) and Liam Brennan supported by Brid Seoige, Gavin Collins, Muriel Grenon, Donal Leech, Tracey Ferguson, Paul Mee, Colette Lavin and Lorraine Tansey who were involved in preparing the campus in advance for the huge volume of visitors expected, and finally in the dismantling of the exhibition spaces after the crowds had departed. It was like a scene after a tornado. But for all of us still working there last night, it was so satisfying. For it was a 'good day'

'Baile Todhchaíoch' (Futuristic Living)- Gaelscoil de Íde ag Aonach Eolaíochta Dé Domhnaigh (Sunday's Science Fair).


Is é an téama atá againn i mbliana ná Baile Todhchaíoch. Chruthaigh na páistí tionscnaimh bunaithe ar Fhuinneamh na Gaoithe, Grianchumhacht, Aerchumhacht, Ainmhithe i mBaol agus an éifeacht atá ag an athrú aeráide ar an fharraige, chruthaigh siad Carr Leictreach agus bhailaigh siad eolas bunaithe ar Bháisteach Aigéadach.
The school theme this year is Future Town. The children created projects on Wind Energy, Solar Power, Air Power, Endangered Animals and the effects of Climate Change on the sea, created an Electric Car and collected information based on Acid Rain

Children Making a Difference on 'Climate Action': Milltown school.

At Sunday's Science Fair in NUI Galway, the children of Milltown national school will be exhibiting an array of eco-projects including some with an interesting Outer Space dimension.
Well done principal Neala No Uaitear, teachers and pupils!

The Citizen Science pioneers of Galway to exhibit at Science Fair


This year's Science Fair, that is the finale of the Galway Science & Technology Festival, is a game changer at so many different levels.
It will be the largest one day themed Climate Action event ever held in Ireland; will host on the same platform key guest speakers from the European Commission (Kathryn Tierney -Directorate-General Environment), an influential national environmentalist (Duncan Stewart) and an internationally renowned children's eco author (Andri Snær Magnason); will host the largest number of schools/youth groups ever to exhibit science projects in Galway; and will introduce the public to the country's first national sustainability course for Transition Year students.
But it will also be the first time that we will give due recognition to the great pioneering and ongoing Citizen Science work being undertaken by the community/environmental NGOs of Galway. Included amongst these groups is 'Friends of Merlin Woods' who will showcase their scientific/art (STEAM) projects done in collaboration over the years with schools and the general public including wildlife photography, biodiversity surveys and protecting/developing natural habitats

Planting a Forest, March 2000


In 2000 over three thousand people turned up one Sunday in March to plant the first trees in Terryland Forest Park.
Today there are over 90,000 trees in Ireland's largest community-initiated urban woodland.
One photo shows the O'Brolchain family taking part in that first Plantathon, (the then new estate of Dún na Coiribe is being built in the background) and the second photo shows the same spot as it looked a few months ago. What a beautiful transformation!
So the power of collective volunteerism to make a positive change cannot be overestimated.
To take part on next Sunday's tree planting in Terryland (Dyke Road zone) which is being held as part of the Galway Science and Technology Festival's Climate Action programme, register at https://bit.ly/2pVKqMV.
Rendevzous: Dyke Road carpark in front of the Black Box. Conservation Galway members and supporters will escort volunteers to the planting.
Please bring along a spade and wear suitable footwear.

Youth Making a Difference on 'Climate Action': Recycling project from Foróige-Tusla at Science Fair.


It is great to see the young people from the Galway STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) initiative exhibiting their projects including those with environmental themes at the Galway Science Fair on Sunday November 24th in NUI Galway!
STEAM is a joint initiative with Tusla (Child and Family Agency) and Foróige, (Youth Development) supported by Camara Ireland’s TechSpace programme. The aim is to promote STEAM based activities in youth and Tusla services in Galway; to give young people the opportunity to try activities such as film making, coding, engineering etc; meet like minded people; build on life skills such as team work, communication, problem solving; build confidence and presentation skills; showcase their work at local, regional and national events / competitions; and to meet and be inspired by people working in different industries. Young people from the youth projects and groups in Galway will be displaying their stop motion animations, props from their Reel Life Science film project on how recycling can be fun using Make Do sets and how to create solutions with LEGO.

'Walk of the Boreens’ – After the Planting comes the Rambling!


After the completion of the tree planting on Sunday next, starting from the Dyke Road there will be a lovely guided ramble through Galway city’s Hidden Rural Trails and Landscapes.
Register at https://bit.ly/2NzfdrV
'Walk of the Boreens’ is an opportunity to discover some of Galway City’s best kept secrets in a delightful leisurely ramble along a network of river walks and country lanes (‘boreens’) embracing Terryland, Coolough, Ballinfoile and Menlo through a rich diverse rural landscape of wetlands, rivers, woods, hedgerows, farmland, castles, ancient villages and karst limestone hills. These ancient trails, primarily characterised by biodiversity-rich hedgerows that once served as the transport arteries for a farming population, could become a vibrant health and ecological resource for present/future generations and form part of a green infrastructure for the development of Galway as a National Park City.
Date/Location
Rendezvous: ‘The Plots’ (old sportsfield), Dyke Road (Woodquay end).
1pm, Sunday November 17th
Requirements
Participants should wear suitable weather attire/footwear. Children to be accompanied by parents or guardians.

People of Galway: Plant Trees next Sunday & Help in the war against Climate Change


As part of the Galway Science and Technology Festival, people of all ages are invited to plant thousands of native Irish trees next Sunday (Nov 17th) morning (9.30am-12.30pm), on the Dyke Road side of the Terryland Forest Park, which will be undertaken under the auspices of Conservation Volunteers Galway.
Rendezvous: at Dyke Road car park in front of Black Box.
This ‘Plantathon’ will help ensure Galway is at the forefront of the Irish government’s key commitment, as presented in its recent Climate Action Strategy, to plant 22 million trees every year for the next twenty years.
To take part you can register at https://bit.ly/2pVKqMV. Please bring along a spade and wear suitable footwear.

So why are trees being planted in such large numbers not just in Ireland but all across the world? As well as providing homes and food to a unprecedented amount of flora and fauna species, protecting human health by filtering out toxic car emissions, beautifying our rural landscapes and cities, trees are the most natural, economical and sustainable way in sequestering the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that is the primary cause of man-made Climate Chaos.
Many of the trees planted on Sunday will hopefully still there for decades even centuries to into the future, still helping to regulate the climate, still giving life to humanity and to so many other species.

This month’s Galway Science and Technology Festival, with its theme of Climate Action, has secured funding from Galway medical company Aerogen to offer every one of Galway’s city and county three hundred schools a bundle of four different species of native trees for planting in their school grounds or locality.
Has your school applied for these trees. If not, get your school to register at https://www.galwayscience.ie/for-primary-schools/

The Festival was also granted 2000 trees (willow, birch, oak etc) from Science Foundation Ireland/SFI (donated by Coillte) to allow the people of Galway to create a new woodland along the Dyke Road in Terryland Forest Park.
Terryland was Ireland’s largest urban forest project when it was initiated twenty years ago. Over three thousand people turned on a glorious Sunday in March 2000 to take part in Galway’s first ever mass plantathon. Today there are c90,000 trees in this natural heritage zone (‘Lungs of the City’) that stretches from Terryland Castle to the farmlands of Castlegar. So will you, your family and friends join us on Sunday to ensure that our city is once again at the forefront in the battle to tackle Climate Change, protect our previous biodiversity and save so many lifeforms on planet Earth?

Please note that next Sunday, volunteers can park their cars in the Dyke Road car park (free parking until 12.50pm) or even better walk or cycle to the rendezvous point in front of the Black Box.

p.s. Photo is from a Terryland Plantation from 2012 adjacent to the area being planted on next Sunday

Irish Contributions to World Culture: No. 7631- Halloween


Halloween's Pagan Celtic Roots
Today Halloween is joyously celebrated by children across the Western world.
There is a popular misconception though that Halloween is a modern American invention. Not so. Though our American cousins have to be congratulated for making this very special festival a fantastic children-centric occasion nevertheless, as with so many other things that have brought great happiness and joy to humanity for millennia, its roots lay firmly in the culture of the Irish Celts!
(Photo- my son Dáire & 'friend'!)

Yet in the modern repackaging of this ancient pagan festival, many of the fine traditions that were once such an integral part of the festivities have disappeared. For instance our Celtic custom of placing human skulls with candles at entrances to domestic dwellings in order to ward off evil spirits has been replaced by lights in hollowed-out pumpkins! Likewise the visits of children dressed up in ghoulish and macabre fancy dress going door-to-door looking for gifts of sweets and fruits is a poor substitute for the former visits of the ghosts of our ancestors who used to drop in once a year on October 31st for a nice meal with their living relatives (we would prepare a place for them at the dinner table).
It was said too that live captives were placed in wicker cages above huge bonfires and burnt alive (as portrayed in the classic British 1970s cult film “The Wicker Man”). But such horror stories were originally spun by those nasty Romans when they were at war with the Celts. So it was probably nothing more than malicious enemy propaganda. After all, what do you take us Celts for? Barbarians?!!

As with so many other annual family festivals, Halloween has become so commercialised by 'Americanised' popular culture that its true origins and religious aspects have long since being forgotten.
So here is the true story of 'Féile na Marbh' (Festival of the Dead'):

Christianisation of 'Samhain'
Yet modern-day Americans were not the first people to re-brand the festival. In the middle ages the Catholic Church created the Christian festival of 'All Hallows Eve' or 'All Souls Day' when people were asked to remember and pray for their dead family members.
This event was superimposed onto the ancient pagan Celtic festival of 'Samhain' which marked the end of the summer season characterised by heat & light and the coming of the dark cold barren winter months.

Celtic Festivals
Typical of many agricultural societies, the Celts had four major annual festivals based on the cyclical differences experienced in the changing seasons of nature and their corresponding weather patterns. The other three were 'Imbolc' (spring) 'Bealtane' (summer), 'Lugnasa' (autumn). The latter was associated with harvest time.

Bon(e)Fires
Samhain was a time when food was hoarded as people prepared for the cold season when no plants grew. While many domestic animals such as cattle were brought indoors for the winter, others were slaughtered and most of their meat salted for storage whilst the remainder was cooked for the big feast. As with all Irish festivals, communal bonfires were lit as people gathered together at warm fires to socialise and to give thanks to the deities. Bones of the slaughtered animals were thrown into the fire as symbolic gifts to the gods, an action which give rise to the term ' bone fires' or 'bonfires'. Embers from this sacred fire were taken by local people to their households to light their own domestic fires.

Antecedents to the Pumpkin & 'Trick or Treat'
But Samhain was also a time when creatures from the supernatural world could enter into the world of mortals. 'Fairies' (Irish='Sidhe' as in ‘Banshee’/‘female fairy’) and the spirits of the dead would walk the earth. Many of these beings were benevolent and the spirits of dead ancestors; so families laid out extra food and set aside a table space for their ghostly visitors. This metaphorised into the custom of today's children dressing up as demons and witches & calling to the neighbours' houses to receive presents.
But there were spirits that came on the night of Samhain that were malevolent. Candles were placed in skulls at the entrance to dwellings as light was feared by these dark foreboding creatures. This protection against evil became transformed in modern times into the positioning of hollowed-out turnips and later pumpkins with carved out faces and internal candles at windows and doorways.
Centuries-old party games of trying to eat an apple lying in a basin of water ('bobbing') or dangling on a string tied to a ceiling ('snapping') are still popular festive past-times with Irish children.

The apple is probably the most common edible fruit in Ireland. It was also strongly associated with the spirit world and the fairies (sidhe). In the Arthurian legends, the mystical island of Avalon is where King Arthur obtains his magical sword Excalibur and where he is taken at the end of his life by the Lady of the Lake and her female fairy companions (banshee). Avalon comes from the Welsh word afal or Irish aball.

Fortune Telling at Halloween
Central to the Irish Halloween is the eating of a fruit bread known as 'Barmbrack' from the Gaelic term 'Báirín Breac' (speckled or spotted top). It is still a popular festive food today.
Various symbolic pieces were placed in the dough before it was baked such as a ring, a pea and a stick. When an item was found in the slice when it was being eaten, it told of the future that awaited the recipient. For instance, the 'ring' signified marriage within a year; a 'stick' represented a bad or violent marriage; the 'coin', wealth and a 'pea', a long wait before marriage.

Irish Export Halloween to North America
The Irish emigrants of the nineteenth century introduced Halloween and its rituals to America. Within a few decades, the festival was transformed into the fun and games event of today.

Significant Irish Contributions to World Culture:
No. 7642- 'Dracula'

Considering our national passion of asking the dead to resurrect themselves & drop into the house for a late night meal & party, it should come as no surprise that the world's most well known vampire Count Dracula was the creation of an Irishman, the novelist Bram Stoker in 1887.
His inspiration though was Carmilla, a book about a lesbian vampire created naturally enough(!) by another well known Irish writer, Sheridan Le Fanu.

(Photos from Macnas Halloween youth parade in Ballinfoile, Galway City)

Citizen Science in action- Mobile eco sensor Lab to help schools monitor local Air Quality


As part of the Galway Science & Technology Festival 2019, the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway will be piloting a project to help children and youth in Galway schools to collect and analyse open data related to air quality such as levels of oxygen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates.
The equipment used will include a 'Mobile Environmental sensors Lab' (see photo) and a 'Visual Data Air Quality monitoring centre' located in the Computer and Communications Museum at the Data Science Institute of NUI Galway.
The project will transform primary school pupils and second level students into citizen scientists collaborating with third level scientists to undertake valuable research designed to help improve the local environment and people’s quality of life.
As part of the process, the young Citizen Scientists will initially be made aware of the properties and impact of the different gases that will be monitored.
Photo shows the core team (the 3 Wise Men!) that is making this project happen (L-R): Niall O Brolchain, Martin Serrano and myself.

Citizen Science training- OpenStreet Map workshop for Galway Science Festival


As part of the Galway Science & Technology Festival, the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway is hosting a workshop on Saturday November 23rd for teachers, community groups, environmentalists, science researchers, geographers, planners and students to learn about and participate in Open Street Mapping, a free, editable map of the whole world that is being built by volunteers. The underlying electronic data is open-sourced and crowd-sourced.
Organised by Ireland’s OpenStreetMap (OSM) community, the free event is open to all interested individuals and groups, and will commence from 11am at the Insight Centre in the Dangan Business Park.

This information and workshop event, taking place as part of our centre’s Citizen Science schedule, will provide a wonderful opportunity for both experts and novices to exchange ideas and experiences on this very important grassroots global initiative.
All over the world, there are restrictions on the availability or the use of map information. OSM aims to remedy this by generating a free, editable map of the world. To date four million people have come together to contribute data to OSM. These volunteers collect data using manual surveys, GPS devices, aerial photography, and other free sources. This crowdsourced data is then made available under the Open Database License. OpenStreetMap contributors have diverse interests and work at differing scales. Some people map their locality, while others work on themes such as public transport, the built environment, graveyards, tree cover, beaches, churches, sports grounds, greenways, energy infrastructures and many other things.
OSM Ireland is affiliated to the worldwide volunteer movement. The purpose of the Galway chapter is to promote contributions of mapped data and re-use of the data, both locally and globally.
To register go to:
https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/openstreetmap-workshop-tickets-78039926521?fbclid=IwAR3rbfTbD2406zAaqG3h0-cW0U0QcGwK8TOBfcTnggGgevELIIwSyB-hEjA

Schools Making a Difference on 'Climate Action'- Creggs National School

Creggs is one of the many primary and post primary schools that will be exhibiting at the Science Fair in NUI Galway on November 24th which represents the finale of Ireland's largest ever child-centric (two week) festival on Climate Science.

The school's exhibit will be a tribute to their wonderful Wildlife Park that in 2020 will celebrate twenty years in existence. This large green and blue oasis in the small picturesque village of Creggs, near the Roscommon border, comprises a series of habitats and built heritage. Its wildflower meadow, river, hedgerow, trees, old style well, traditional arched bridge, wooden benches, rock memorials and willow hut is located in a rural countryside of forests, pasture and small farms where deer, foxes and hares can regularly be seen. 
Generations of pupils and teachers assisted, by parents and other volunteers, have created a lovely zone of tranquility that is used daily by villagers of all ages to experience moments of relaxation, reflection and tranquility. This park represents a sustainable resource and a legacy for the benefit of the wider community as well as being home to a wide variety of wildlife. So we look forward to enjoying at the Science Fair the children's celebration of what is one of Ireland's largest and oldest school parks.

Finally it is great to see two of the original founders of the park, Fiona Brandon and Ger Dowd (photo), still serving in the school and still bringing knowledge and excitement to the children with their teaching skills and ideas. I have known them both since I first started working with this fine school on science, technology and heritage projects fifteen years ago and hope to continue to do so for many more years to come

Scoil Shéamais Naofa Bearna san Fhéile Eolaíochta!


Tá Rang 6 i Scoil Shéamais Naofa, Bearna ag obair do dian ar ábhair ag baint leis an téama Gníomhú Aeráide chun taipseántas a thabhairt ag Féile Eolaíochta in Ollscoil na Gaillimhe ar an Domhnach 24ú Samhain. Tá foirne difriúla sa rang ag fiosrú topaicí mar chumhacht athbheochain, cosaint bhitheagsúlacht, bealaí glasa, bia orgánach i mblialanna áitiúla, siopadóireacht ghlas agus ar thraidisiúin feirmeoireachta agus baile sna blianta caite a bhí níos fearr don talamh agus don saol inbhuanaithe. Roghnóigh an rang na topaicí is fearr leo chun iniúchadh níos doimhne a dhéanamh orthu agus a chur i dtaispeántas na scoile ag féile na míosa seo chugainn. 

-Ealaín álainn de nádúir an fhómhair ar bhallaí Scoil Shéamais Naofa!

Sixth class in Scoil Shéamais Naofa Barna is actively researching material based on the theme of Climate Action for their exhibit at the Science Fair on Sunday November 24th in NUI Galway. Teams of pupils are undertaking research into topics such as renewable energies, biodiversity protection, greenways, local organic foods in restaurants, green shopping and on traditions in farming and homelife in times past that were better for the soil and for creating a more sustainable lifestyle. The class will select their favourite topics to delve into more fully and display at the school stand at next month’s fair.

-Beautiful paintings of Nature on the walls of Scoil Sheamais Naofa.

Listen to the Radio!


Working late with carpenter extraordinaire Brendan Walsh as we continue to transform the museum into a more 'hands-on' engaged technology heritage facility.
The latest enhancements are to the Radio zone, where the display areas are being improved and an interactive Morse Code learning element is being added.

Work will continue with a small team of trusty volunteers and artist Helen Caird over the next few weeks as we get the museum ready for a plethora of school visits as part of the Galway Science and Technology Festival (Nov 10th - 24th).

'Secrets of Superhero Science' to be revealed during Galway Science Festival!


Artist extraordinaire Helen Caird is happily painting a series of drawings in the computer museum that will tell the story of how the science fiction of the children's 1960s+ Star Trek television series inspired so many technologies that we have today. It was the 'communicator', 'tricorder', 'holodeck', the computer and bridge's giant screen of the USS Enterprise that motivated people to innovate and create devices from the mobile phone to Cisco's telecommunication equipment.

During next month's Galway Science & Technology Festival, a series of lectures by Barry Fitzgerald from Eindhoven, entitled 'Secrets of Superhero Science', will be hosted by the Insight Centre/Data Science Institute of NUI Galway. The audience will explore the science behind the superpowers of some of your favourite superheroes. They will learn about genetic mutations and the X-Men, the advanced eyesight of Hawkeye, the possibility of shrinking in size just like Ant-Man and the Wasp, the advanced technologies in the Iron Man suit, and how likely is it that society will be able to replicate these superpowers in the future.
These exciting talks will be followed by guided tours of the Computer and Communications Museum where visitors will be introduced to the stories of some of these Fiction-to-Fact technologies and to view rare Marvel/DC and other classic comics from the 1960s-1980s.

Schools Making a Difference on 'Climate Action'- St. Nicholas Parochial School.


It is inspiring to see so many schools enthusiastically getting involved in Ireland's largest ever child-centric festival on Climate Science that is taking place from November 10th until 24th.
St. Nicholas Parochial School, Woodquay, Galway city is one of those schools.
A visitor to their premises will be impressed by the beautiful environmental art on display including a huge oceanic theme mural (see photo) in the playground.
The children of this school will be exhibiting at Ireland's largest one day festival of science that will be taking place across the NUI Galway campus on Sunday November 24th.
St. Nicholas's projects will be based on the biodiversity of the Terryland Forest Park-River Corrib area and the network of 'boreens' (country lanes) that emanate from it into the rural hinterland of Coolough, Menlo and Castlegar.
Is your school taking part in the finale of the Galway Science and Technology Festival 2019 at the university on November 24th?
If not, there are still places available. We would love to see your pupils and students demonstrating to the world their awareness and solutions to Climate Chaos and Biodiversity Loss.
To book a stand, register at www.galwayscience.ie

Schools- Register now to get free Native Irish Trees for planting during Galway Science & Technology Festival



Primary Schools can book their trees at https://www.galwayscience.ie/for-primary-schools/
Secondary schools can book at https://www.galwayscience.ie/for-secondary-schools/

The photo is from a community mass tree planting (Plantathon) held in Terryland Forest Park during 2012. This community-initiated city forest park had its first trees planted in March 2000 at a Plantathon attended by over 3000 people. Thanks to Galwegians of all ages, it is estimated that there are now over 90,000 trees in what is Ireland's largest urban forest initiative

Every School to plant trees during Galway Science Festival!

Thanks to the generousity of Aerogen, the Irish medical tech company, every primary and post primary school in Galway city and county will be offered a free tree pack, consisting of four different native Irish species, as part of next month's Galway Science and Technology Festival. Our theme for 2019 is Climate Action and we want to ensure that all our young people will be given an opportunity to play their part in saving the planet and in understanding the science behind Climate Chaos.

So the proposal is that the schools will plant the trees in their grounds or locality at the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month (11am, Nov 11).
Each school will be asked to photograph or film the planting (or of the trees after planting) and post onto online social media. The best three images/films will be awarded €200 vouchers for Dangan Nurseries (to buy more trees and flowers for planting!).
Through this wonderful initiative which feeds into the National Park Strategy for Galway, the young people of our city and county will be active participants in tackling climate chaos and enhancing biodiversity.

Call to Galway youth to turn Climate Protest into Climate Science



We are asking Galway’s children, youth and schools to consider transforming the enthusiasm and concern that was so obvious at last month’s Climate Strike protests into meaningful sustainable scientific climate action themed projects for showcasing at November’s Galway Science and Technology Festival, in order to increase public awareness on the dangers of, as well as the solutions to, global warming and the mass extinction of species.
The children of the world have spoken and the adults of the world need to heed their warnings. But as the sixteen year old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has stated over and over again, ‘Listen to the Science’. The theme of the annual Galway Science and Technology Festival taking place next month is ‘Climate Action’. So, as part of this two week long event, we are calling on all of Galway schools to open their doors to their communities and to display their Climate Change-related projects during this period.  Every one of the almost three hundred schools in the city and county are undertaking at least one wonderful scientific project  that is directly or indirectly related to the twin global dangers of climate chaos and biodiversity loss .  With the message of ‘Think Global, Act Local’, these may include a study of a local bog, turlough, river or seashore; the implementation of pro-recycling waste management system in a school; the development of a school organic garden; the monitoring of local air quality;  a long term study of the causes of changing weather patterns; the planting of a woodland or bee-friendly wild flower meadow; an analysis of renewable energies; the hosting of cycling and walking initiatives; a  review of how to one’s lifestyle more healthy.
But we are also asking schools to consider reaching a wider audience by exhibiting on Sunday November 24th in NUI Galway when over 22,000 visitors attend Ireland’s largest one day science and technology fair. This event also hosts a fantastic range of exhibits from world leading Galway-based corporations, indigenous companies, learning centres, and third level colleges and research institutes.”
A number of other exciting Climate Change and Citizen Science initiatives are being planned for the festival including a native tree planting programme involving every school in the city and county.
To book an exhibition space at the Science Fair on November 24th, schools and youth groups are asked to contact me  at brendan.smith@insight-centre.org