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Comment: Ed-tech is a mixed bag (Score 1) 372

by mesri (#42864221) Attached to: Professors Rejecting Classroom Technology

I'm a math/physics professor at a teaching intensive university, and I'm _way_ up the bell curve for tech adoption in my classes among my colleagues -- I try out lots of stuff, partly because I think part of my job is to curate potential resources for my students, showing them tools that they might choose to use themselves. Some of those things I try stick, many don't. And I have sympathy for my colleagues, who are a little overwhelmed by all the possibilities and their regular work-loads -- any new thing they try will necessarily slow things down at first, so for many of them it has to get over the activation potential very quickly to be worth the effort, or the long-term payoff has to be very big.

I see a couple of issues:

1. Admittedly, many of my colleagues are just hesitant to try new things

2. Often, old tech solutions are just as good or better, especially when the goal is _learning_. I bring slide rules to my lessons about logarithms. Nothing better than physically moving them around and understanding what "adding logs" means, and why it is more convenient than multiplying enormous numbers. Of course, I dump them as soon as the students understand "what" they are doing and go back to using their phones or laptops with R installed when we care about efficiency.

3. Many of the tech solutions are passed down from above (we are politely "asked" to use Blackboard, for example), and their adoption has more to do with IT budgets and gimmickry than any real learning goals. How many ed tech products have actually gone to the effort of demonstrating real learning gains in real classrooms? I care about what my students _know_ and what they can _do_ -- I don't give a damn what tech it takes to get them there, and my colleagues are, I think, understandably weary/wary of all the pressure to try new things _because they're new_.

4. How many ed tech companies understand pedagogy? Admittedly, many professors don't understand it either, but I care about it, and frankly, a lot of potential technologies aren't compatible with all the learning goals a professor might have, or their use takes time away from some other goal.

Comment: Most people still don't believe... (Score 1) 813

by mesri (#41144373) Attached to: How Long Do You Want To Live?
I'll bet that most people who answer 80 or 120 years don't really believe that it will ever be possible to live longer than that -- I find that most people have a hard time making an honest evaluation of the desirability of something that they honestly think isn't going to happen. As the technology gets closer, and more people start to seriously think it could happen, I expect a lot more people will want it.

Comment: Cough, cough... (Score 4, Interesting) 347

by mesri (#34857784) Attached to: Nobel Prize Winner Says DNA Performs Quantum Teleportation
To put it simply, this is BS, on all levels. The summary is just wrong, teleportation doesn't even appear in the article on arXiv. But then the arXiv article is ridiculous. It's a thinly veiled attempt to play with homeopathy: "high dilutions", "mechanical agitation between each dilution", and low frequency EM taking the place of "concussing", "water nanostructures" formed on the DNA which can be used to recreate the DNA sequence? And the paper is totally amateur hour. In summary: It's BS.

Comment: Nice article (Score 5, Informative) 107

by mesri (#33676296) Attached to: Scientists Find New Target For Alzhiemer's
Pretty good article (the original in J. Neurosci). Alzheimer's has long been believed to be caused by aggregates of amyloid-beta protein, but exactly how they kill neurons (and in what stage of aggregation) has been pretty controversial. They showed a pathway from the amyloid-beta through this N-SMase to neuron death in small assemblies _and_ in larger aggregates, which should make everybody happy (or maybe no one). The important caveat though is that this was in vitro testing, and everything to do with studying Alzheimer's has been confounded by the subtle differences between in vivo and in vitro.

Comment: Re:Factor 30 (Score 1) 113

by mesri (#31539354) Attached to: Invisibility Cloak Created In 3-D
From the abstract at Science: "Cloaking operation with large bandwidth of unpolarized light from 1.4- to 2.7-m wavelength is demonstrated" -- that's only a factor of 2 to 4 longer than visible red light. The factor of 30 is the reduction required in the size of the crystal features in the metamaterial. But I agree that we're still a long way from being able to NOT see a Klingon Bird of Prey...

Comment: Not the right article (Score 1) 418

by mesri (#29740333) Attached to: The Ultimate Limit of Moore's Law
Doesn't anyone read the articles? It says that the article in Phys. Rev. Lett. was published _today_, October 13, 2009. The article that was linked to is two years old and not really relevant. This is the one they're talking about: http://link.aps.org/doi/10.1103/PhysRevLett.103.160502 There's a preprint at: http://arxiv.org/abs/0905.3417 The gist of it is that one can consider a fundamental step of a computation to be the evolution of a quantum system from a state to an orthogonal state (cause if they aren't orthogonal, you're going to get the answer wrong). They figure out the maximum rate at which the system can evolve between orthogonal states, which sets a maximum to the speed of the computation. Turns out that the rate is proportional to the difference in energy of the two states -- which means that you can drive the computation faster by choosing two states that have very different energies. But if you do that, since you need to have a power source driving the system between the two energy levels, you have to spend a lot of energy to keep the rate up. Sort of obvious, but they work out the details with explicit lower bounds for the first time

Comment: Flatland (Edwin Abbott) (Score 1) 434

by mesri (#20527833) Attached to: Bringing Science and Math Into Writing?
_Flatland_ is a spectacular story that many mathematicans and scientists mention as having been an inspiration when they were young.

At my high school in California a couple of years ago we developed a unit based on _Flatland_ that involved all four core academic subjects -- in the english class they actually read the book and discussed literary and stylistic aspects. In the history class they discussed the allegory being made about social class and gender. In the math class they talked about the geometry, and in my science class we talked about the role of geometry in understanding physics and chemistry, and did exercises and problems that drove home that point. It helped that this high school had a strong core teacher team that collaborated daily on coordinating lessons and sharing notes on struggles our students were having -- so we were already focused on interdisciplinary work and helping the students make connections between different subjects.

I applaud what you are trying to do, and reccomend that whatever materials you choose, you try to coordinate some of them with the other teachers at your level -- it works!

"The geeks shall inherit the earth." -- Karl Lehenbauer

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