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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
Number of posts: 33,743

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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Monday Toon Roundup 3- The Rest





Monday Toon Roundup 2- Rethugs

Monday Toon Roundup 1- Iraq

Troops surround Baghdad “Green Zone” as outgoing Prime Minister Maliki appears to cling to power

UNCONFIRMED reports suggest troops have sealed off Baghdad’s “Green Zone” in an apparent coup.

“There is a huge security presence, police and army, especially around the Green Zone,” the highly-protected district that houses Iraq’s key institutions, a high-ranking police officer has confirmed to AFP.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced early this morning on state television he intended to file a complaint against President Fuad Masum for violating the constitution.

“Today I will file a formal complaint to the federal court against the president,” he said, in a surprise address at midnight Iraq time.



Supermoon from Orbit

more from the ISS


The black hole at the birth of the Universe

The big bang poses a big question: if it was indeed the cataclysm that blasted our universe into existence 13.7 billion years ago, what sparked it?

Three Perimeter Institute researchers have a new idea about what might have come before the big bang. It's a bit perplexing, but it is grounded in sound mathematics and is it testable?

What we perceive as the big bang, they argue, could be the three-dimensional "mirage" of a collapsing star in a universe profoundly different than our own.

"Cosmology's greatest challenge is understanding the big bang itself," write Perimeter Institute Associate Faculty member Niayesh Afshordi, Affiliate Faculty member and University of Waterloo professor Robert Mann, and PhD student Razieh Pourhasan.


Rand Paul gets schooled: Libertarian fantasies don’t help kids learn — teachers do


When I was in elementary school, I remember wondering about the day when teaching would become automated, and human teachers would be obsolete. I remember thinking that information could be delivered through computers (as I was seeing with early educational software) and that students could even input responses that could be automatically evaluated. And the technology was very new then, so of course it would only get better (and of course it has gotten much better). What I failed to understand, at that age, was the critical importance of direct human interaction in the process of education.

According to Politico, Rand Paul is “planning a major push on education reform, including education choice, school choice, vouchers, charter schools, you name it.” As one specific example for improving education, Paul suggested that “if you have one person in the country who is, like, the best at explaining calculus, that person maybe should teach every calculus class in the country.” He allowed that “You’d still have local teachers to reinforce and try to explain and help the kids, but you’d have some of these extraordinary teachers teaching millions of people in the classroom.” As an example, Paul lauded the work of Salman Khan, the creator of Khan Academy, a growing vault of education videos aimed to comprehensively cover a wide variety of traditional school courses and other topics as well.

I like Salman Khan’s videos – I think they can be a valuable tool. Just like all sorts of other educational media, talented teachers can utilize these assets wisely to help complement their teaching, and there are many different approaches that can be used to great success. Salman Khan does a very nice job of explaining difficult concepts. This happens to be a great strength of mine as well. And while my knack for explaining the concepts of calculus have been of tremendous value to me in my teaching, I must say that the “explaining” aspect of teaching is one small part of what we do, and that the best teachers (and this goes for just about every discipline, not just higher-level mathematics) do not simply stand in front of the class and feed knowledge into their skulls. This sort of approach to education is one of the flaws in our system, as too often teachers gravitate toward this conventional approach.

Here is the biggest problem with this approach (and thus with Paul’s vision of education): If your brand of teaching is simply explaining things to kids, then you’re not teaching them to think. You’re not teaching them to problem-solve. You’re teaching them to learn what you tell them, and to be able to reproduce something similar. What we need to do in education, however, and in particular in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education, is to cultivate creative critical thinking skills. As former Secretary of Education Richard Riley said, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” This is always in my mind as I teach my math courses. I have to constantly remind myself to get out of the way of the students, to not jump in with a hint or answer too quickly, and to challenge them to ponder a concept before I explain it to them.



Supermoon Tonight!

Hey there sky watchers, it's supermoon time!

This Sunday, when the full moon rises in the night sky, it will appear about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than an average full moon. That's because the moon will turn full within the same hour that it is closest to us in its orbit around the Earth.

The first in the series was July 12, and there's another one coming on on Sept. 9. However, Sunday night's supermoon is special because perigee will occur just 26 minutes before the moon turns full, and Sunday is also what's called proxigee, the closest perigee of the year.


Copenhagen’s newest bike lane totally rules

By Madeleine Thomas

In Copenhagen, where bicycles outnumber people and nearly 40 percent of residents cycle to work, bike-friendly infrastructure is key.

But, even though more than 200 miles of bike lanes wind throughout Copenhagen, congestion is a common issue. The city is home to the world’s busiest bike lane, on which up to 40,000 cyclists travel daily.

The Cykelslangen (soo-cool-klag-en), or Cycle Snake, the city’s newest elevated skyway designed exclusively for cyclists, should help keep bike traffic moving smoothly, Wired reports:

“Underneath, there’s a harbor front, so there are slow moving-pedestrians,” says Mikael Colville-Anderson, CEO of Copanhagenize, a Danish design company. “It wasn’t a smooth commute for the cyclists. The people on bikes want to get home and the pedestrians want to saunter.” Pedestrian-cyclist conflict was never an issue, but cyclists couldn’t pedal at a constant speed, and they had to deal with stairways. The new roadway, which runs one story above the ground, lets them move without interruption. At just over 13 feet wide, there’s plenty of room to pass even a double-wide cargo bike.

At roughly 700 feet long, it will only take most cyclists less than a minute to traverse the Cykelslangen, but props to Copenhagen for building another bike path that’s practical and beautiful to boot.




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