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Comment: Re:Maybe science went off the rails... (Score 1) 353

by danbert8 (#49775189) Attached to: Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed?

An inexpensive, non-toxic example of a non-Newtonian fluid is a suspension of starch (e.g. cornstarch) in water, sometimes called "oobleck" or "ooze" (1 part of water to 1.5–2 parts of corn starch).

Kitchen goo does not necessarily involve a chemical reaction. Baking soda and vinegar is an actual chemical reaction, and frequently used as an example, but making a "volcano" out of it is hardly a science experiment.

Even if one does accept that oobleck has chemical merits due to being a non-Newtonian fluid, making it is not a science project. And yes, I have seen several of these lazy science fair projects found on Google at state level science fairs.

Comment: Re:it's not "slow and calculated torture" (Score 1) 720

by danbert8 (#49774225) Attached to: Greece Is Running Out of Money, Cannot Make June IMF Repayment

No, your analogy is flawed. Your mortgage is for 30 years, but you can't afford the payments as agreed. The bank isn't requesting anything extra fast. What they are doing is not letting you open new credit accounts to use to pay the mortgage payments. What Greece (and other countries) have been doing is taking out loans to make the payment on loans. That is not "rolling over," that is bankruptcy. Greece doesn't have the money to pay off the loans per the terms of the loan. The EU isn't changing the terms, they are just not increasing Greece's credit limit.

Comment: Re:Maybe science went off the rails... (Score 4, Interesting) 353

by danbert8 (#49774195) Attached to: Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed?

That's part of it... But I believe the biggest problem is science fairs. Once heralded as a great way to get kids involved in science and the scientific method has been ruined by a culture of excessive safety, pandering to kids, and incompetent science teachers. First, every kids science toy has been neutered by safety culture. I'm not saying we should have kits with mercury and radioactive materials like we did in the 50s, but "science" kits where you make kitchen goo instead of actual chemical reactions is lame and boring. Kids are not fooled.

Second, the increasing pressure to pass all kids or give them participation ribbons is very present at the science fair. Many kids are forced to participate, and in many fairs judges have to assign a minimum score of "good" or some such term. I have judged at the STATE LEVEL (as in, they had to do very well at the school and county levels) and have had to assign this minimum score which was still a gift. Kids come up with buzzword laden projects and make elaborate art projects that get ooohs and ahhs from non-technical people while doing no research and offering conclusions that are demonstrably wrong. Don't believe me? Go to a science fair some time and count the number of "experiments" showing ethanol has more energy content than gasoline. There are usually a dozen at the state science fair I judge. I also wonder how many projects are done primarily by the parents who don't want their kids to do poorly.

Finally, the incompetency of science teachers... This is not applicable to all teachers, but especially in poorer areas and in under performing schools, science teachers have no science background and don't understand the scientific method. They don't understand research, citations, hypotheses, or conclusions. They don't even take the time to verify experimental results with a quick Google search. The comforting thing I've noticed from judging student science projects is that most of the kids KNOW their teachers are incompetent and bullshitted their way to a good score at the science fair. At the state level, they are completely unprepared for actual questions on subject matter by professionals in the various fields. I'm a civil engineer, and I've had to shake my head in disbelief that projects are off by an order of magnitude from what they should be and it is a shock for the student to hear that as no one has reviewed or questioned their work before the state level.

What we need is a new science fair system where teachers can mentor students on projects, but teachers don't judge projects. Projects should only be judged by people familiar with the subject matter and the scientific method. If they can't scrape together the judges, maybe the science fair needs to go away or there needs to be an active campaign to recruit and support professionals to judge school science fairs. It should be no surprise that the science fair kids have grown up to do research that panders to public opinion, are lazy, have poor citations, and are filled with self-confirming results.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor

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