Category Archives: Science and Technology

Ticks swarm in ‘shocking’ numbers in R.I | Breaking News | providencejournal.com | The Providence Journal – The Providence Journal

Why are ticks worse in Rhode Island than anywhere else?  Can someone please explain that to me?  Or do other states just not know how many ticks they have?

Ticks swarm in ‘shocking’ numbers in R.I | Breaking News | providencejournal.com | The Providence Journal – The Providence Journal.

Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function, UCLA study shows – UCLA Health and Medicine News

Yogurt can change your life.  Yes, I eat yogurt almost every day.

Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function, UCLA study shows – UCLA Health and Medicine News.

Mars Disappointment

I was really hoping that Curiosity would scoop up some bacteria and they would announce it and peace on earth would result. Oh well, we are still in suspense…

SAN FRANCISCO — The Curiosity Mars rover has discovered something interesting in a scoop of ruddy sand, but NASA scientists say they’re not quite sure what it means.

Sand that was shake-and-baked inside the car-size rover’s chemistry kit bubbled off traces of organic compounds, mission scientists said at a news briefing Monday at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Such compounds, made of carbon and chlorine, are of the type that, in some cases, indicate microbes in the soil.

But such compounds also could be contamination from the rover itself — or they may have rained onto the surface inside meteorites, said Paul Mahaffy, a mission scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

“It’s unclear if the carbon is Martian or terrestrial,” Mahaffy said.

As the great philosopher Lazlo Toth said after an earlier Mars mission in 1976, “of course you didn’t find life on Mars, you just killed it.”

Words to reflect on.

Kiersten Marek:

Lessonwriter.com is a Rhode Island-based education startup that has designed a great tool for helping teachers.

Originally posted on LessonWriter Blog:

As a middle school teacher I often faced classrooms of thirty plus students with ability levels that spanned four to five different grades levels. There was so much variance in ability, skills and academic preparedness that I might as well have been teaching in an old-fashioned schoolhouse with a row for each grade level.  I was always told that the answer was differentiated instruction.

The problem was most of my administrators had little advice on how to do this.  One year, my principal promised to present the staff with a well-differentiated model lesson, and instead he delivered an incredibly-challenging single-level, single-strategy lesson and asked the staff to journal about how infuriating an experience it was to sit through a lesson that didn’t meet our needs.  He said the point was to promote greater empathy for our students and motivation to work harder at differentiating- still he offered no answer…

View original 266 more words

Attention Members of the Faculty: You are NOT Part of the Middle Class

In case you harbor any delusions of grandeur that you or your children will someday rise to fame and fortune in academia, let me gently harsh on your mellow.  The truth is, most of our higher education faculty members are now adjuncts, or under a more fancy title, contingent faculty.  As this article details, many adjuncts earn about $10,000 a year.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, this applies to other people but not to my little Johnny because he is going to be a scientist.”  Good luck with that.  Science jobs are also getting harder to come by in academia, or anywhere.

Finally, before the reality party is over, I invite you to take a trip to 100 Reasons Not to Go to Graduate School.  It is extremely well-written and well cited (the links all work and bring you to current and relevant articles).

And, on a note of full disclosure, yes, I did apply to graduate school this past year.  And yes, I am not going.

Touchdown on Mars!

Some happy news today, Curiosity landed safely on Mars.

Mission controllers burst into applause and cheers as they received signals confirming that the car-sized rover had survived a perilous seven-minute descent NASA called the most elaborate and difficult feat in the annals of robotic spaceflight.

Engineers said the tricky landing sequence, combining a giant parachute with a rocket-pack that lowered the rover to the Martian surface on a tether, allowed for zero margin for error.

“I can’t believe this. This is unbelievable,” enthused Allen Chen, the deputy head of the rover’s descent and landing team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles.

Moments later, Curiosity beamed back its first three images from the Martian surface, one of them showing a wheel of the vehicle and the rover’s shadow cast on the rocky terrain.

NASA put the official landing time of Curiosity, touted as the first full-fledged mobile science laboratory sent to a distant world, at 10:32 p.m. Pacific time (1:32 a.m. EDT/0532 GMT).

Nuclear Risk in Japan

Japan is on track to re-start two nuclear plants despite warnings…

Seismic modeling by Japan’s nuclear regulator did not properly take into account active fault lines near the Ohi plant, Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismologist at Kobe University, told reporters.

“The stress tests and new safety guidelines for restarting nuclear power plants both allow for accidents at plants to occur,” Ishibashi told reporters. “Instead of making standards more strict, they both represent a severe setback in safety standards.”

Experts advising Japan’s nuclear industry had underestimated the seismic threat, Mitsuhisa Watanabe, a tectonic geomorphology professor at Tokyo University, said at the same news conference.

“The expertise and neutrality of experts advising Japan’s Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency are highly questionable,” Watanabe said.

After an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks at reactors north of Tokyo, Ishibashi said Japan was at risk of a nuclear disaster following a large earthquake, a warning that proved prescient after Fukushima.

The neutrality of nuclear industry experts is highly questionable everywhere. The damaged nuclear plants at Fukushima are still hot, and the danger continues. As Germany moves to other energy sources, Japan has a chance to change course. In the best case, the world will move beyond large, centralized polluting power sources and wasteful consumption before the next inevitable tectonic shift.

Fun With Science

With a popular press that is, as far as science reporting, dumber than a bag of hammers– concerned citizens need critical thinking tools. Lifehacker has a toolkit…

How to Determine If A Controversial Statement Is Scientifically True

Every day, we’re confronted with claims that others present as fact. Some are easily debunked, some are clearly true, and some are particularly difficult to get to the bottom of. So how do you determine if a controversial statement is scientifically true? It can be tricky, but it’s not too difficult to get to the truth.

Go here for the rest.

That article links to this one about ‘confirmation bias’.

Punditry is a whole industry built on confirmation bias.

Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck and Arianna Huffington, Rachel Maddow and Ann Coulter – these people provide fuel for beliefs, they pre-filter the world to match existing world-views.

If their filter is like your filter, you love them. If it isn’t, you hate them.

Whether or not pundits are telling the truth, or vetting their opinions, or thoroughly researching their topics is all beside the point. You watch them not for information, but for confirmation.

It’s contrary to human nature to approach life with a blank slate, but it never hurts to air out your assumptions and apply some scientific method now and then.

Wind Power 2.0

All that free energy flowing over the seas, it’s time to re-visit ancient technology…

Yes, this “futuristic” vessel, as CleanTechnica describes it, would sport giant vertical beams outfitted with humongous cloth wind-catching devices, known as “sails.” It must be said that these elaborate mechanisms look rather ungainly, and skeptics might wonder whether an energy source as unreliable as the breeze could ever actually power something as bulky as a seafaring craft.

But just imagine if it worked! “If it proves successful,” the blog enthuses, “the new B9 cargo ship could usher in a new era of fossil fuel-free technology at a critical time for the shipping industry.”

The whole notion sounded almost too ingenious to be true. So I called up the good folks at B9 Energy Group to make sure this wasn’t some kind of a hoax.

Not at all, managing director David Surplus assured me. Applying wind power to ships might sound far-fetched today, but if oil prices keep rising, it might well make economic sense in the not-too-distant future.

The cargo is biowaste pellets, a green fuel that can be used for heat and power electric turbines.

To generate electrical power sustainably and environmentally friendly, we can no longer rely on fossil fuels alone as their supply is diminishing. An interesting alternative to coal, oil and natural gas – which in principle are biomass resources with an origin dating far back millions of years – is the use of self-replenishing biomass as a source of renewable energy.

Maniwa, Japan, is already putting energy back into the grid by using lumber industry by-products in its generators. They used to just burn the stuff as waste.

What makes economic sense is to start with that politically incorrect word, ‘conservation’. Add smarter use and multiple, local power sources and we might someday have a few ‘small oil’ corporations running honest business instead of Big Oil trying to run our country.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 975 other followers