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Posts Tagged ‘Science’

Neal Stephenson Takes Blame For Innovation Failure

April 19th, 2012 04:08 admin View Comments

Businesses

itwbennett writes “Neal Stephenson is shouldering some of the blame for discouraging budding scientists and engineers, saying in a interview that perhaps the dark turn science fiction has taken is ‘discouraging budding scientists and engineers.’ For his part, Stephenson has vowed to be more optimistic. From the article: ‘Speaking before a packed lecture theater at MIT yesterday, Neal Stephenson worried that the gloomy outlook prevalent in modern science fiction may be undermining the genre’s ability to inspire engineers and scientists. Describing himself as a “pessimist trying to turn himself into an optimist,” and acknowledging that some of his own work has contributed to the dystopian trend, he added “if every depiction of the future is grim…then it doesn’t create much of an incentive to building the future.”‘”

Source: Neal Stephenson Takes Blame For Innovation Failure

Let’s Take a Walk Through the Science of Walking

April 18th, 2012 04:56 admin View Comments
Categories: 80beats Tags: ,

Florida Thinks Their Students Are Too Stupid To Know the Right Answers

April 16th, 2012 04:29 admin View Comments

Education

gurps_npc writes “Robert Krampf, who runs the web site ‘The Happy Scientist,’ recently wrote in his blog about problems with Florida’s Science FCAT. The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is an attempt to measure how smart the students are. Where other states have teachers cheating to help students, Florida decided to grade correct answers as wrong. Mr. Krampf examined the state’s science answers and found several that clearly listed right answers as wrong. One question had 3 out of 4 answers that were scientifically true. He wrote to the Florida Department of Education’s Test Development center. They admitted he was right about the answers, but said they don’t expect 5th graders to realize they were right. For this reason they marked them wrong. As such, they were not changing the tests. Note: they wouldn’t let him examine real tests, just the practice tests given out. So we have no idea if FCAT is simply too lazy to provide good practice questions, or too stupid to be allowed to test our children.”

Source: Florida Thinks Their Students Are Too Stupid To Know the Right Answers

FBI Wants To “Advance the Science of Interrogation”

April 12th, 2012 04:09 admin View Comments

Government

coondoggie writes “From deep in the Department of Creepy today I give this item: The FBI this week put out a call for new research ‘to advance the science and practice of intelligence interviewing and interrogation.’ The part of the FBI that is requesting the new research isn’t out in the public light very often: the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which according to the FBI was chartered in 2009 by the National Security Council and includes members of the CIA and Department of Defense, to ‘deploy the nation’s best available interrogation resources against detainees identified as having information regarding terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies.’”

Source: FBI Wants To “Advance the Science of Interrogation”

Can Journalism be More Scientific?

April 12th, 2012 04:30 admin View Comments

sxsw-2012-150.pngWhile the SxSW conference is already a distant memory, some of us are still catching up on the recorded sessions. One worth listening to is a discussion by Gideon Lichfield, the media editor of The Economist, and Matt Thompson, the editorial production manager for NPR. The session covered What Journalism Can Learn from Science, and looked at some interesting issues for practicing journalists.

There are plenty of things that we in the tech trade press – the general press, too – can learn from the science research community. Both groups formulate and test various hypotheses. Journalists try to find sources that agree with the hypothesis, scientists try to observe data to prove or disprove their theories. The two sides have very different aims, goals and approaches, but both are trying to find the “truth” in their own ways.

Mentioned during the session was the science news cycle that was part of a Jorge Cham comic, wherein a scientist’s tentative findings are turned into a certainty by the evening TV news. We certainly need to do better at interpreting what a researcher finds before accidentally creating new “facts.”
Comic reprinted by permission from “Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham at www.phdcomics.com

The session explored how to make journalism more like science, and the presenters mentioned that journalists need to improve their work by using new tools – such as Storify- that include three key characteristics:

  • Self-justifying, or useful to the journalist in helping us do our jobs better,
  • Interoperable in a bunch of different environments, something that we can just plug into our blog, content management system or whatever, without a lot of programming or customization, and
  • Easy to use, especially by journalists who aren’t going to spend a lot of time trying out and learning new tools.

While the presenters didn’t mention options beyond Storify, journalists already use a number of tools that fit their description, including RSS readers, site traffic analyzers and social media groups to track information and keep up-to-date on trending topics.

Finally, the duo mentioned three important aspects of science that journalists need to embrace, understand and work on improving:

science citation index.jpg

  • Being collaborative. Scientists take it for granted that they are working together to build a body of work. To help, there exists the Thomson Reuters Science Citation Index that can be used to measure one’s reputation and lists references from 3,700 of the world’s leading scientific and technical journals across 100 disciplines.
  • Being replicable, meaning you can see the methodology used and how we reached our conclusions. Scientists do this with footnotes, and while no one is suggesting that journalists start adding footnotes to blog posts, there is a need to do a better job of exposing journalistic methods and how a particular fact or quote was obtained. One effort used by a few news sites is Document Cloud, where you can check out the story’s source materials merely by clicking on them.
  • Being predictive. The panel mentioned the “Friedman Unit.” Based on the writings of The New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, the Friedman Unit is the amount of time it takes for readers to forget a journalist’s predictions. It’s not very long. This gets at the notion that while journalists often fill stories with predictive claims, they seldom seem to return to them to see if things really did turn out that way – except perhaps in the occasional end-of-year wrap up piece.

Journalists – and society – could use a prediction tracker to hold us more accountable, and see how our prognostications have turned out. Politifact does this on its website by reporting on Obama’s various promises, as shown in the screengrab below:
politifact.jpg

Science and journalism are both about observing the world and using those observations to understand how the world will be in the future. What journalism can borrow from science is the requirement to better track how well our observations actually perform at helping us understand and predict what’s likely to happen next.

Source: Can Journalism be More Scientific?

Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?

April 7th, 2012 04:44 admin View Comments

Education

New submitter everithe writes “Dear Slashdot, I am nearing the end of my undergraduate years and hoping to continue on in academia, probably focusing on condensed matter physics. Recently I’ve noticed some alarming pessimism among Slashdotters about the state of science — that fraud is rampant and that people honestly trying to do science are less likely to be recognized and obtain tenure. Obviously I am very interested in doing real and useful science, but am worried that this could conflict with my ability to put food on the table. My question is, how bad is it really, and do you have any advice for how one just starting out might survive in such an environment?”

Source: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?

Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?

April 7th, 2012 04:44 admin View Comments

Education

New submitter everithe writes “Dear Slashdot, I am nearing the end of my undergraduate years and hoping to continue on in academia, probably focusing on condensed matter physics. Recently I’ve noticed some alarming pessimism among Slashdotters about the state of science — that fraud is rampant and that people honestly trying to do science are less likely to be recognized and obtain tenure. Obviously I am very interested in doing real and useful science, but am worried that this could conflict with my ability to put food on the table. My question is, how bad is it really, and do you have any advice for how one just starting out might survive in such an environment?”

Source: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?

1981 Paper’s Predictions for Global Temperatures Spot-On

April 6th, 2012 04:25 admin View Comments

Earth

Layzej writes “The Register reports on a paper published in Science in 1981 projecting global mean temperatures up to the year 2100. ‘When the 1981 paper was written, temperatures in the northern hemispheres were declining, and global mean temperatures were below their 1940 levels. Despite those facts, the paper’s authors confidently predicted a rise in temperature due to increasing CO2 emissions.’ The prediction turns out to be remarkably accurate — even a bit optimistic. The article concludes that the 1981 paper is ‘a nice example of a statement based on theory that could be falsified and up to now has withstood the test.’”

Source: 1981 Paper’s Predictions for Global Temperatures Spot-On

A Museum Math Exhibit That Has Withstood the Test of Time

April 5th, 2012 04:38 admin View Comments

eameschair.jpgIf you weren’t old enough to remember the 1964 New York World’s Fair, you still have a chance to see one of the more wonderful exhibits that has stood the test of time and can be found lurking in the corners of a few major science museums around the world. In the exhibit, you ascend into an egg-shaped theater showing a multimedia presentation that explains the potential of computing to help humankind. It has a 50-foot timeline with hundreds of different artifacts.

The exhibit was based on something called Mathematica, which was created by the famed husband-and-wife design team Charles and Ray Eames on behalf of IBM. It was originally built for the California Museum of Science and Industry near downtown Los Angeles and was actually part of the museum from the early 1960s until 1998. The exhibit included playful animated films also created by the Eameses that offered two-minute lessons on symmetry, powers of numbers and other mathematical concepts.

Today IBM has released a free iPad app called Minds of Modern Mathematics. The app takes the photographs and other vintage materials that were used to create this exhibit and packages it into a nice, browsable collection. The app is being released during the centennial year of Ray Eames’ birth.

mathematics.jpg

You can look back on nearly a thousand years of major math events and timelines showing which mathematicians lived when. There is a lot of stuff to read and there are pictures of the mathematicians’ accomplishments. It is all very well done, and to this once-undergraduate math major, it’s still very exciting and interesting.

The Eameses were responsible for many design innovations, including molded plywood chairs (see the lead photo) and other practical furniture. They were excellent communicators, and among other projects, they made short educational films – which many of us saw during science class back in the day when filmstrips and overhead projectors were in our classrooms. This was in the era before CGI and special effects, and yet the videos were powerful and simple efforts that got some very complex concepts across.

One of their most potent films was something they did in 1977, which I remember seeing for the first time in the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. Tucked away amongst the old planes and rocketry was a small exhibit called “The Powers of Ten” and a movie that you can see below. We start with a picnic along Lake Michigan in Chicago and the camera angle is a square meter. Our point of view zooms into space and for every second, we increase the field of view by a power of ten. Soon we are moving into the outer reaches of our galaxy and then into what is largely empty space. We then return back to earth and go into the microscopic world, down to the atomic level.

I must have stood in front of that 10-minute film and watched it about 17 times, fascinated by the whole thing. IBM sponsored that particular film, too.

You can download the iPad app here. And if you are interested in learning more about the Eameses, check out the website EamesOffice.com. If you are in the New York or Boston area, the original exhibit can still be found in the cities’ science museums. That to me shows how good the Eameses were: Something that can stand the test of more than 50 years is still educating present-day audiences.

Source: A Museum Math Exhibit That Has Withstood the Test of Time

A Museum Math Exhibit That Has Withstood the Test of Time

April 5th, 2012 04:38 admin View Comments

eameschair.jpgIf you weren’t old enough to remember the 1964 New York World’s Fair, you still have a chance to see one of the more wonderful exhibits that has stood the test of time and can be found lurking in the corners of a few major science museums around the world. In the exhibit, you ascend into an egg-shaped theater showing a multimedia presentation that explains the potential of computing to help humankind. It has a 50-foot timeline with hundreds of different artifacts.

The exhibit was based on something called Mathematica, which was created by the famed husband-and-wife design team Charles and Ray Eames on behalf of IBM. It was originally built for the California Museum of Science and Industry near downtown Los Angeles and was actually part of the museum from the early 1960s until 1998. The exhibit included playful animated films also created by the Eameses that offered two-minute lessons on symmetry, powers of numbers and other mathematical concepts.

Today IBM has released a free iPad app called Minds of Modern Mathematics. The app takes the photographs and other vintage materials that were used to create this exhibit and packages it into a nice, browsable collection. The app is being released during the centennial year of Ray Eames’ birth.

mathematics.jpg

You can look back on nearly a thousand years of major math events and timelines showing which mathematicians lived when. There is a lot of stuff to read and there are pictures of the mathematicians’ accomplishments. It is all very well done, and to this once-undergraduate math major, it’s still very exciting and interesting.

The Eameses were responsible for many design innovations, including molded plywood chairs (see the lead photo) and other practical furniture. They were excellent communicators, and among other projects, they made short educational films – which many of us saw during science class back in the day when filmstrips and overhead projectors were in our classrooms. This was in the era before CGI and special effects, and yet the videos were powerful and simple efforts that got some very complex concepts across.

One of their most potent films was something they did in 1977, which I remember seeing for the first time in the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. Tucked away amongst the old planes and rocketry was a small exhibit called “The Powers of Ten” and a movie that you can see below. We start with a picnic along Lake Michigan in Chicago and the camera angle is a square meter. Our point of view zooms into space and for every second, we increase the field of view by a power of ten. Soon we are moving into the outer reaches of our galaxy and then into what is largely empty space. We then return back to earth and go into the microscopic world, down to the atomic level.

I must have stood in front of that 10-minute film and watched it about 17 times, fascinated by the whole thing. IBM sponsored that particular film, too.

You can download the iPad app here. And if you are interested in learning more about the Eameses, check out the website EamesOffice.com. If you are in the New York or Boston area, the original exhibit can still be found in the cities’ science museums. That to me shows how good the Eameses were: Something that can stand the test of more than 50 years is still educating present-day audiences.

Source: A Museum Math Exhibit That Has Withstood the Test of Time

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