Archive for: March, 2007

Another expert weighs in on chemistry matches in the Sweet Sixteen.

The pregame show has already started on the Acid vs d-orbitals game, but we've just received another set of predictions about this game and the Fossil Fuels vs. Erlenmeyer Flask match (hmm, should I say "match" there?) from the Molecule of the Day guy. Adjust your best accordingly!

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Friday Sprog Blogging: "Dinosaur Day" declared.

Mar 30 2007 Published by under Kids and science

Yes, the Free-Ride offspring think they have the power to declare today "Dinosaur Day". This is your official notification.

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Science Spring Showdown Sweet Sixteen: Game venues announced!

You've been waiting patiently. It's almost here!

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How important are labs for learning science?

Steve Gimbel has a provocative post that suggests the costs of undergraduate lab classes may outweigh the benefits. Quoth Steve:

[E]verything I know about physics, I learned from my theory classes. You see, science classes come in two flavors. There are theory classes where a prof stands in front of the room and lectures and then there are lab classes where for many hours, students walk in ill-prepared and tried to figure out which one of these things we've never seen before is a potentiometer, fumble their way through procedures that yield results that are not even close to what they were led to expect, and then plug and chug their way through scientific and error calculations that frankly mean little to them. I will freely admit that all my experiences in lab classes were a waste of intellectual time and curricular space that could have much better utilized.

Now, I'm supposed to be writing a serious academic paper right now*, but Steve, as a fellow philosopher who is well aware of my misspent scientific, actually emailed me to see if I'd weigh in on the (as did another blogger coming at the issue from the perspective of a working scientist). And, coincidentally, just the night before Steve published his post, my better half and I were reminiscing about our undergraduate experiences with laboratory classes. So really, what choice do I have but to respond?

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Welcome NYTimes readers! (Plus a few words on my linkage luck.)

Mar 27 2007 Published by under Current events, Passing thoughts, Personal

If you got here by following the link from Dennis Overbye's story about the movie Dark Matter, you may want to read the post he quotes about Theodore Streleski and the dangers of extreme power imbalance between graduate students and their advisors. (It's also possible that this time next year I can post a follow-up about the less extreme but still real power imbalances between the tenured and the untenured.)
And now, let me indulge in a tiny bit of grumbling about linkage:

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2007 Science Spring Showdown: Experts handicap the third round chemistry matches.

As we head into the Science Spring Showdown Sweet Sixteen, it seemed prudent to turn to some experts for their predictions on the two remaining games in the chemistry region, Acid vs. d-orbitals and Fossil fuels vs. Erlenmeyer flask. (Of course, we won't soon forget the exciting first and second round games that brought these four teams to the Sweet Sixteen.)
Here's what some members of the chemical cognoscenti have to say:

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Friday Sprog Blogging: kitchen table conversations concerning water

Mar 23 2007 Published by under Kids and science

The participants in the conversation recounted here were not under oath during the conversation, and there exists no official transcript of the conversation.
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: When we were filling water bottles for soccer practice today, your child had an interesting theory about what was going on with the ice cubes.
Dr. Free-Ride: You put ice cubes in the water bottles? Pretty fancy! So, what was the theory?

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Chemistry round two: results for MORTAR AND PESTLE bracket announced!

1st ROUND RESULTS | PRESS CENTER | PRINTABLE BRACKETS
chembracket2.jpg

Welcome to coverage of the 2007 Science Spring Showdown second round play in the Chemistry region. The fans in Chemical Arena resorted to a face centered cubic strategy to pack themselves into the stands. You could almost feel the electricity in the air as the products of the first round match-ups were poured into the separatory funnel of the second round. The fans and the teams shook things up. Which teams came out in the top layer, and which saw their hopes of going all the way drained out?

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A question for the scientific hivemind: Do IRBs get protocols from evil scientists?

One of my students raised a really good question in class today, a question to which I do not know the answer -- but maybe you do.
We were discussing some of the Very Bad Experiments* that prompted current thinking** about what it is and is not ethically permissible to do with human subjects of scientific research. We had noted that institutions like our university have an Institutional Review Board (IRB) that must approve your protocol before you can conduct research with human subjects. At this point, my student asked:

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Chemistry fans get excited as second round games in MORTAR AND PESTLE bracket draw near.

PRESS CENTER | PRINTABLE BRACKETS
chembracket2.jpg

Even given a weekend to come back to equilibrium, some chemistry fans are still perturbed by some of the results of first round play in the MORTAR AND PESTLE bracket. FTIR's upset win over NMR has many a Monday morning spectroscopist splitting his peaks trying to analyze what went wrong. And while Ethanol is a perennial powerhouse in this conference, many tournament watchers had anticipated celebrating Caffeine at their Monday morning lab meetings.

Friday's games were just the first step in a mutli-step synthesis of a tournament champion. Tomorrow, just four teams will emerge from the crucible of second round play in the Chemical Arena. The match-ups will be:

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