Science magazine: “Better networking through chemistry on Fakebook”

HydrogenIf you asked hydrogen what its job is, what would it say? According to hydrogen’s “Fakebook” profile, its job is to be “rocket-ship fuel.” Furthermore, its relationship status is “bonded.” And carbon, nitrogen and oxygen are its friends.

Fakebook ( is a Facebook-look-alike website created in January 2011 by Russel Tarr, a teacher at the International School of Toulouse, France. Since its creation, the website is rapidly becoming a popular teaching tool for science, history, and other school subjects, with a quarter of a million hits per week, according to Tarr. In December alone, 14 Hydrogen profiles appeared on the site. “Kids love Facebook, and you always have to latch on to what they’re enthused about and channel it into the classroom,” he says.

Each of the students in Forest Grove, Oregon, teacher Tammy Johnson’s biology class wrote a profile for a different cell organelle – and then Johnson had them post on each others’ walls as a way to think about how the cell parts interact with each other. “It puts it into a context that they’re more familiar with,” Johnson says.

Students in Lee Ferguson’s Advanced Placement (AP) biology class in Allen, Texas, meanwhile, made profiles for animals. Gerald the giraffe, for example, notes that he sleeps only 20 minutes a night – “sort of like an AP student.” Writing on Gerald’s wall, an acacia tree complains about being eaten. “I’m really stressed,” the tree writes. “I’ve just got a lot of things eating at me right now.”

Another circle of Fakebook friends runs to the geometric. The rectangle laments that its birthday is “disputed” because it doesn’t know if it was invented or discovered. It also notes, ruefully, that it “can be a bit square sometimes.”


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