Archive for: May, 2007

A few announcements.

  • The Society of Women Engineers is hosting an event on June 3rd that may be of interest to girls (or their parents) in the Twin Cities area:

    On June 3rd, hundreds of girls in St. Paul, Minnesota will attend an event hosted by SWE called, "Wow! That's Engineering!" Through hands-on activities, girls will learn how solar power works, the wonders of deep sea diving, and even develop their own lip-gloss. Most importantly, they'll realize that engineering is not just about working behind a computer; it's about making a difference in the world.

    This looks to be aimed at middle school and high school students. Spread the word.

  • Tomorrow being the 1st of June already (how??), the 7th edition of the Scientiae carnival will appear at FemaleCSGradStudent. The theme for this round of stories of and from women in science, engineering, technology and math will be "How We Are Hungry," so it should make for delectable reading.
  • Finally, I'd like to call your attention to the Seed 2007 Science Writing Contest. The first prize is $2,500 and second prize is $1,000 for the best 1200-word essay on the following questions:

    What does it mean to be scientifically literate in the 21st century? How do we measure the scientific literacy of a society? How do we boost it? What is the value of this literacy? Who is responsible for fostering it?

    The submission deadline is July 1, which is right around the corner. I can't enter (what with my ties to Seed), but maybe you can*. If you were to win, I'd probably assert bragging rights!

Any other events, contests, carnivals, or whatnot we should know about? Lay them on me.
______
*Because of the laws on contests and sweepstakes, I'm sorry to report that only entries from the U.S. will be eligible to win. Boo!

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Commencement LOLdrums

May 31 2007 Published by under Academia, Passing thoughts

I want to lay this at Julie's feet, or maybe John Lynch's, but I'm starting to think the LOLcats are taking over! My kids speak to each other in LOL dialect, and I've been mentally captioning ... well, everything.
My internal dialogue from part of commencement transcribed below. If you know a good deprogrammer, please email me!

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Is it arrogant to want to use our scientific knowledge?

Perhaps you heard Steve Inskeep's interview with NASA administrator Michael Griffin on Morning Edition this morning. Perhaps you also are trying to tease out the logical consequences of this statement he made about climate change:

I have no doubt that ... a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change. First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings -- where and when -- are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.

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A question for those of you who talk to kids.

Although this question is somewhat connected to issues from the previous post, it's a question I've been meaning to put out there for some time:

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Resisting scientific ideas.

In the May 18th issue of Science, there's a nice review by Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg [1] of the literature from developmental psychology that bears on the question of why adults in the U.S. are stubbornly resistant to certain scientific ideas.
Regular readers will guess that part of my interest in this research is connected to my habit of trying to engage my kids in conversations about science. Understanding what will make those conversations productive, in both the short-term and the long-term, would be really useful. Also, I should disclose that I'm pals with Deena (and with her spouse). When a friend coauthors an interesting paper (published in Science), why wouldn't I blog about it?
I'll run through the main points from developmental psychology research that the review identifies as important here, and then I'll weigh in with some thoughts of my own.

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Commencement address bullet-points.

May 29 2007 Published by under Academia, Personal, Teaching and learning


Having finished grading (yea, having submitted the final grades themselves), I attempt to resurface from my cave.
It's really rather bright out here!
Anyway, as you will have deduced from my last post, there was a commencement-sized break in my grading activities on Saturday. The commencement speaker, Google senior vice president of global sales and business development Omid Kordestani, gave a nice address to the grads and their guests, so I'm reporting on his big points here.

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A commencement story.

May 26 2007 Published by under Academia, Passing thoughts, Personal

Ahem.
Beach ball here! Kids, I'm not going to march myself into the stadium!

That's better. Thanks dude!

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Friday Sprog Blogging: our version of hearts and flowers.

May 25 2007 Published by under Kids and science

Since folks in the U.S. have a long weekend, and because the last entry was younger-offspring-centric, you get a bonus Sprog Blog.
Elder offspring: (following up a request at breakfast for a slice of bagel with avocado spread on it) It's not brown avocado, is it?
Dr. Free-Ride: No, it's just ripe and freshly spooned out of its skin. So it will be nice and green.
Elder offspring: Good.
Dr. Free-Ride: Hey, do you know why avocado turns brownish if it's out of the skin awhile?
Elder offspring: No.
Dr. Free-Ride: "Oxidation". It reacts with the oxygen in the air, and the reaction converts the green stuff to brownish stuff.
Elder offspring: Weird.
Dr. Free-Ride: Can you think of anything else where reacting with oxygen in the air might change the color of something?
Elder offspring: If I hold my breath, I'll turn blue.
Dr. Free-Ride: Hmm. That's a change in color that has to do with a lack of oxygen. What about blood?
Elder offspring: It's red.
Dr. Free-Ride: But did you know that it's red because there's oxygen bound to its hemoglobin? When the oxygen it's carrying is used up, it isn't red until it picks up more oxygen.
Elder offspring: No way!
Dr. Free-Ride: It's true. Have a look at your arms for a minute. See those veins by your wrists?
Elder offspring: They look blue.
Dr. Free-Ride: That's blood that's delivered its oxygen and needs to get more.
Elder offspring: Cool.
Elder offspring's blood-related artwork after the jump.

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Friday Sprog Blogging: oh, grow up!

May 25 2007 Published by under Kids and science


A conversation with the younger Free-Ride offspring at the elder Free-Ride offspring's soccer practice this week:
Dr. Free-Ride: Hey, can you tell me about the science you've learned in kindergarten this year?
Younger offspring: No.
Dr. Free-Ride: Why not?
Younger offspring: We haven't really learned any science yet.
Dr. Free-Ride: Child, it's almost June! If you haven't really learned any science in kindergarten yet, when is it going to happen?
Younger offspring: I don't know.
Dr. Free-Ride: Well, what kind of science would you like to learn about?
Younger offspring: Maybe about stuff under the sea.
Dr. Free-Ride: Hmm. I'll see if we can manage that. There's a place I could look. How about giant flightless birds? Would you like to learn about them?
Younger offspring: Of course!

* * * * *

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After this Saturday, it's all gravy!

May 24 2007 Published by under Academia, Passing thoughts, Personal

This post brought to you by my intense desire to avoid grading any more papers.
More than a dozen years ago, when I earned my Ph.D. in chemistry, I made what many at the time viewed as a financially reckless decision and purchased academic regalia rather than just renting it.

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