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Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land is from the days when Disney was cool. They even made math cool. When I saw this, it changed my life. I got math. Now if I just keep watching it over and over and over… I’ll remember math.

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Mirrored from Lemmingworks.


Sep. 27th, 2009 08:40 am
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iNudge Rules. It reminds me of the great leonide.de exploratorium of years ago that I was obsessed with. This is my little version of patterns. You click on the boxes in the right column to see the patterns, and in the lower left is the volume curve. If it is dark but the button below it is pressed, I’ve muted that channel. You can click on the button and that pattern will turn on.

This is great as it allows children to create riffs and share them, and other people can mod them as well… does just what it says… allows children to explore sounds and music patterns.

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Mirrored from Lemmingworks.

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Japan Plans $21 Billion Solar Space Post to Power 294,000 Homes

The concept of space-based solar power was introduced way back in 1968, but it’s only recently that the world has latched on to the idea. Japan is definitely getting in on the action with its latest spacey plan – a $21 billion solar-powered generator in the heavens to produce one gigawatt of energy, or enough to power 294,000 homes. The Japanese government announced the plan back in June, but there has been an important new development – Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and industrial design company IHI Corp. are now teaming up in the race to develop new technology within four years that can beam electricity back to Earth without the use of cables.

I wrote an article about this for the toronto star in the fall of 1990, while following the International Space University, that year hosted at York University. I wanted to attend the summer program, but I couldn’t afford the $10k tuition. But I went to the newspaper and got press credentials, so I could attend all the classes I wanted free of charge.

I’m a big fan of the science of Solar Power Satellites, based on the research I did then, particularly if they’re built in space from materials manufactured in space. I hope they have the obvious bugs worked out, because if they do, it really will be the closest thing to free power imaginable.

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Mirrored from Lemmingworks.

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Was talking with one of my mentors, Gary Babiuk, about a presentation I’m doing next week on Reggio Emilia inspired science for a conference in Winnipeg. I told him that I was going to find the most tech reticent person in the room and give them my video camera to document everything. Without instructions, of course, just as a child might happen over a misplaced camera and play with it, or flush it down the toilet.

I’m always curious about how teachers get locked into the teacherly form of cognition predicated on preparation and outcomes to the exclusion of ad hoc experimentation… that’s what the presentation will be about… that is I won’t present anything at all, but will make some resources available with some simple instructions, probably “make it move in interesting and creative ways” and then abdicate responsibility for the outcomes.

Well, they are flying me in, so after doing that for an hour, I’ll explain what I did with my students, what they in turn did with children, and then show them some videos before turning everyone back to the materials, and say, “ok, do it again, but now make it really interesting!” And hope that hilarity ensues.

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Mitochondria are just the coolest thing, imho.

Mitochondria have many features in common with prokaryotes. As a result, they are believed to be originally derived from endosymbiotic prokaryotes…. The endosymbiotic relationship of mitochondria with their host cells was popularized by Lynn Margulis. The endosymbiotic hypothesis suggests that mitochondria descended from bacteria that somehow survived endocytosis by another cell, and became incorporated into the cytoplasm. The ability of these bacteria to conduct respiration in host cells that had relied on glycolysis and fermentation would have provided a considerable evolutionary advantage. In a similar manner, host cells with symbiotic bacteria capable of photosynthesis would also have had an advantage. The incorporation of symbiotes would have increased the number of environments in which the cells could survive. This symbiotic relationship probably developed 1.7-2 billion years ago.

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Been chatting with Steve recently, or sharing emails anyway. He’s got this great hydraulophone concept. I’d love to have one at school. I would.

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9. Can You Spell Science? asks:

Think Americans haven’t gotten smarter? Think again. Between 1979 and 2006, the percentage of scientifically literate adults doubled — to 17%. This year, a survey by a professor of political science at the University of Michigan found that that dismal showing may have improved, but only a little. Currently, 25% of the population of the U.S. — the country that invented the airplane and the light bulb and landed men on the moon, remember — qualify as “civic scientifically literate.” In practical terms says the investigator, that means that only one in four adults can read and understand the stories in the weekly science section of The New York Times. And this comes at a time when the U.S. electorate is being asked to grapple with — and reach informed consensus about — such complex questions as global warming and stem cell research.

And I wonder what the rate is for Canadians.

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Ecogeek points to this article in the LA Times, saying:

Why the eff did we decide that having all the roofs in the world be black was a good idea? I mean, I know, tar is black, and that’s what most roofs are sealed with, but I really can’t imagine a much dumber decision.

Simply painting roofs white in warm climates could decrease air conditioning bills for those buildings by 20%. That’s one reason why California has required all new buildings to have white roofs for the past few years.

But now there’s even more reason to spend the extra dough. It looks like, if all the roofs in the world were white, enough sunlight would reflect back into the atmosphere to significantly reduce the effects of global warming. WTF?! Such a simple change, such a massive effect!

This new study says that if the 100 biggest cities painted all their roofs white, and switched their road materials to lighter colors (concrete instead of asphalt) it would reflect enough light and heat back into space to entirely offset the warming of the last few decades.

Via TreeHugger

So, we paint the roofs white, and anything else we make that is dark, and bounce that energy back into space… er… just like the melting ice caps. Better than some of the things I’m reading about how to combat global warming… but still let’s try it first in Toronto! It should be easy to measure the decrease in heating costs and local heat island effect to see if it works. And we could do it now.

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Beach Sand Dirtier Than the Water - Science - redOrbit

Beach sand often contains higher levels of E.coli and other fecal bacteria than water at the beach, U.S researchers said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said research suggests beach closings due to elevated fecal indicator bacteria may be linked to contaminated beach sand. The findings are among the topics that will be discussed in Indiana at the Great Lakes Beach Association conference Sept. 16-17.

“Over the last few years, we’ve identified an important source of indicator bacteria and how these bacteria may negatively influence recreation, but this is the first time experts have actually met to discuss this issue collectively,” Richard Whitman, head of the Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station, said in a release.

USGS said bacteria are often present in the sand in high concentrations independent of any recent contamination events. The bacteria can also be re-suspended into the beach water by onshore winds and high waves.

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Slashdot | Review: Spore

The hype leading up to Spore was excessive. But then, so is the scope of the game; following the growth of a species from the cellular level to galactic domination was an ambitious goal, to say the least. Bringing evolution into the realm of entertainment was something Will Wright hoped and gambled he could do after the success of the Sim franchise. But rather than evolution, Spore became more about creation — creation that allows a single-player game to include the community, as well. It ties the various parts of the game together to make Spore very entertaining as a whole. Read on for my thoughts.


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Being able to explain things to people is not one of my strong skills, so I’m always looking about for examples by people who are good at it. I’m not sure what these jokers (Adam and Jamie) are really trying to explain, perhaps it is about GPUs, but they sure bring it down to a simple blunt force level. Mythbusters recreate Mona Lisa with massive 2100 cannon paintgun turret - Boing Boing Gadgets

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Just a theory: Modern culture destroying science education - Boing Boing Gadgets

The Chronicle of Higher Education writes about the decline of science education, which has wussed out and become too interested in its own cultural propriety to adequately teach the nuts and bolts. We just don’t challenge kids with hard stuff like trig anymore, preferring that they have self-esteem, which qualifies them to have just gotten laid off by Starbucks….

Now, bringing women and minorities into all this marks the writer as an old fart. I bet a dollar he’s the type that weasel-words like a champ in the evolution debate, because The Left is science’s real enemy. But he’s right about how soft science education’s getting….

After all, science’s organized enemies all more or less openly proclaim their agendas. But the shallow pool of talent that results from a culture of entitlement isn’t something we can nail down, as it were, quite so easily.

Relevance: science is where the iPhones come from.

Yes, this is part of it. But the problem is, imho, that there is no autonomous play. There is no safe/dangerous play. There is no real experimentation. We ‘over program’, and the result of this an expectation that everything is either magic or doable without much effort. I’m not saying “kids today are like this or that”, each generation drops the ball on something. What I’m asking is what are we doing as educators to encourage and foster a creative exploration of the world and lived experience?

That said, I really liked the line, “We just don’t challenge kids with hard stuff like trig anymore, preferring that they have self-esteem, which qualifies them to have just gotten laid off by Starbucks…”

But from the article:

Students usually have to catch the science bug in grade school and stick with it to develop the competencies in math and the mastery of complex theories they need to progress up the ladder. Those who succeed at the level where they can eventually pursue graduate degrees must have not only abundant intellectual talent but also a powerful interest in sticking to a long course of cumulative study. A century ago, Max Weber wrote of “Science as a Vocation,” and, indeed, students need to feel something like a calling for science to surmount the numerous obstacles on the way to an advanced degree.

And it gets better:

The antiscience agenda is visible as early as kindergarten, with its infantile versions of the diversity agenda and its early budding of self-esteem lessons. But it complicates and propagates all the way up through grade school and high school. In college it often drops the mask of diffuse benevolence and hardens into a fascination with “identity.”

Of course I disagree. We DO start with children as scientists. Curious about the world and inquiring, children are born to explore and theorize. People like the author, if the author’s being honest, kill curiosity, exploration and theorizing through the formal institutionalization of lived experience (something that science has aided and abetted) in accountability factories of standardization (not all schools, just the ones that don’t actively thwart this). When students get to university, many have lost the desire to inquiry and explore, and rather want something they have been taught to want… (I’m not going to say what…).

You want scientists? You want FREE THINKERS? Cancel all the tests. Burn the curriculum. Turn the school into a forest and a laboratory, and learn what it means to play. Do that and people will line up for trig lessons… just so they can take play one step further. And they will freak out over the new technologies over at http://www.ecogeek.org/ and want to make them themselves. Give every child in your country the golden book of chemistry and teach them how to make gunpowder, and you’ll create a scientist full of wonder. :)

jason: jason (Default)

Science News / A Quasi-quasicrystal

Jules Mikhael and his colleagues didn’t set out to make a material with a structure that had never been seen before, much less one that combines order and irregularity in a whole new way, one that Archimedes hinted at 2,000 years ago, one bound together by the Fibonacci sequence. They just wanted to understand a quasicrystal.

Even that wasn’t such a modest goal, because quasicrystals are pretty odd critters. Slice one in half, and there is a sort of mosaic with repeating shapes like tiles, much like a crystal. But here’s the bizarre part: Spin the resulting mosaic a fifth of a turn and often its tiles will line up exactly as they were before you spun it.

But that kind of five-fold symmetry is “forbidden,” because mathematicians have shown that no repeating flat pattern has it. That’s why you’ve never seen a bathroom tiled with pentagons—it’d be impossible to cover the whole surface with no gaps

This is mindbogglingly amazing. You must check out the pictures and read it. And if it doesn’t make sense, keep reading it until it does!

jason: jason (Default)

Banned: The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments is a blog post about this book… it has a download link, as it claims it is legal to download it. I ran across it on Kevin Kelly’s blog. I wish it was around when i was a kid. I had to just make it all up myself.

[The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments at about.com has a link to the file as well.]

jason: jason (Default)

I just love Journey By Starlight: Quantum mechanics for cat lovers – Newton strikes back. and everything at http://journeybystarlight.blogspot.com I’ve seen so far. Now, how to work it into my science course. Of course, I think that George Berkeley (1685-1753) said it all before…

Berkeley theorized that individuals cannot know if an object is; they can only know if an object is perceived by a mind. He stated that individuals cannot think or talk about an object’s being, but rather think or talk about an object’s being perceived by someone. That is, individuals cannot know any “real” object or matter “behind” the object as they perceive it, which “causes” their perceptions. He thus concluded that all that individuals know about an object is their perception of it.

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I’m sure you’re all aware of Cliff’s catching of KGB hackers in the 80s. He’s wonderful to watch, and listen to… he believes computers don’t belong in schools… YAY. And what does he want?

Sabrina, my RA this fall, sent me the video. Her favourite quote is

If you really wanna know about the future, don’t ask a technologist, a scientist, a physicist, someone who writes code.. If you want to know what society will be like in 20 years.. ask a kindergarden teacher! They know what a society will be like in the next generation.

Check out his wikipedia page to see what Cliff’s been up to. Oh, and Cliff teaches science to kids sometimes.

I like the end of the video… it chokes me up… “It is the voice of life that calls us to come and learn…” But it is the context in which he says it.

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Dynamics of Cats : Physics Made Magical strangely makes this all sensible.

0. Newtonian gravity is Ron.
Solid, dependable, good long heritage.
It has its limits, but is surprisingly powerful.

1. Electromagnetism is Snape.
You must master E&M, but so many have irrational fear or hatred of it.
It leads to deep unification and glimpses of fundamental symmetries, and is strangely beautiful yet powerful.

2. Special Relativity is Ginny.
Transcends classical mechanics, but in touch with its heritage.
Practical, explosive, generally high energy.

3. Quantum Mechanics is Dumbledore.
No one really understands QM, though many think they do.
QM has its roots in classical mechanics but goes a step beyond convention to deal with levels not imagined classically.
Steeped in contradiction and contains the seed of its destruction.
Quantum electrodynamics are both the end of QM and the beginning of what comes next.

4. General Relativity is Harry.
The culmination of classic physics, enormously powerful, providing deep insights but also intractable and limited in application. Rooted in special relativity.
Apparently orthogonal to EM, yet incomplete without it, GR provides a direction for the future and a deep insight that must be reconciled.
Where GR and QM meet is the paradox that must ultimately be resolved.

5. Quantum Field Theory is Draco.
The heritage is classical, and is the powerful but hideous mess you get when EM is forced to be reconciled with QM.
QFT looks indomitable at times, but fails just when it is needed most, leaving the field open to new solutions and better approaches.
Still there at the end, doing its thing within the limits of its applicability, in eternal opposition with GR yet always avoiding direct conflict.

6. Quantum Gravity is Neville.
It is whacky, full of missteps, but brings surprising insight when least expected and possesses hidden power.
And, deep down, you always have to think that maybe really QG is the ultimate answer.

7. Cosmology is Luna.
Ignored and mocked for so long, comes into its own as the other fields have matured.
Interesting, but a magnet for whacky ideas of all kind, but, hey you never know if maybe some of these crazy notions are really the way things are…

8. String theory is Hermione.
Beautiful, powerful, the signpost for future directions.
Tries to encompass all classical and quantum phenomena, and to develop master all the most powerful techniques.
May contain all the other fields within it.
But, curiously directionless without classical direction, needs external input to be prodded into applying itself to real world issues.

Voldemort is Aryan physics - claims classical heritage, and the power and applicability of QM while rejecting GR.
Never really gets QM, although EM is classically contained within it.
QM could have put him right, but failed and a generation was lost.
Totally wrong about Relativity, misses the key insight and never gets the ultimate power.

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Say Goodbye to Wimpy Paper — Service 2008 (609): 1 — ScienceNOW

Paper grocery bags that can hold a few liters of milk without tearing? That may not be too far off thanks to the development of a “nanopaper” that is tougher than cast iron. The material–made from nanosized whiskers of cellulose–is also lighter than conventional paper and could provide sturdy scaffolds for growing replacement tissues and organs.
Conventional paper is made from cellulose, a crystalline polymer of glucose that’s the primary component of plant cell walls. At the nanoscale level, cellulose can be extremely strong, with individual fibers capable of withstanding more stress than glass fibers or steel wire. But paper processing generates relatively large cellulose microfibers riddled with defects that can break apart under stress. That leaves most commercial paper with a tensile strength that tops out at about 30 megapascals (MPa)….

To toughen paper up, Berglund and his colleagues kept the cellulose fibers small. They did this by breaking down wood pulp in water with a combination of enzymes and mechanically beating it further. The result: defect-free nanofibers about 1000 times smaller than typical cellulose fibers. As a final step, the researchers treated their nanofibers with carboxymethanol, which coated the fibers in carboxyl groups…. The final result–published in the current issue of Biomacromolecules–was a paper with a tensile strength of 214 MPa, far above the 130 MPa of cast iron and the previous record of 103 MPa for a high-strength paper. In addition to improving paper products directly, the new cellulose nanofibers could help create reinforced plastic composites cheaper than those reinforced by carbon fibers, the researchers say.

In addition to making paper stronger, the nanopaper has large pores between the fibers, which should also make it easier and cheaper to dry, thus reducing the cost of any final product, he says. And because cellulose is the most abundant organic compound on the planet, nanopaper has the potential to be cheaper than more-exotic, expensive-to-produce nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes….

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Originally published at Lemmingworks. You can comment here or there.

eclipse last night

I didn’t have a tripod, so this was hand held and I’m impressed with the results. Did anyone else get pictures?

October 2013

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