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Comment Science by Inquiry (Score 2) 246

While in grad school, I was lucky enough to be selected to teach elementary school science in an inner-city school as part of the NSF's GK-12 program. I team-taught with the main classroom teacher 4 afternoons a week, using inquiry-based methods. Our pedagogic approach was very hands-on, and we had to think on our feet a lot. It was not easy for us to lesson plan, but we did our best.

The results? Out of ~35 kids, all of whom were getting free lunches (and all save one living in single-parent/grandparent households), most of whom had no previous science education, roughly 55% passed the state-mandate science proficiency test. That might not sound so great, but since the previous year's class had a passing rate of about 17%, we were ecstatic. We also had good participation in a "science club" held after-school, with more inquiry-based activities. At one point, late in the year, our students even understood free body diagrams (they were about 10 years old) as part of understanding Newton's 3rd law- something my college students typically struggled with.

Inquiry is powerful stuff. It harnesses the thing that makes people interested in science in the first place: innate curiosity.

Comment prototyping for devices in magnetic fields (Score 2) 266

Part of my job is to design objects that will be used in a high-magnetic field environment, namely MRI scanners. Metal is not an option for me. Prototyping with traditional methods (e.g., CNC machining) is extremely cost-prohibitive. So I use 3D-printing. Some I do in-house with an FDM machine, in ABS. A lot I outsource to a better printer that can use other materials, say polycarb, or other methods, like laser sintering. At the end of the day, I get functional prototypes that I can check for utility, than design molds for injection-molded parts based on feedback from those prototypes. 3D printing enables me to do this part of my job. Without it, there would be no prototyping, due to cost, and thus no objects in the magnetic field. Truly a gamechanger.

Comment Structural MRI? (Score 1) 138

I'd love to read the original article. I am not sure how they detected structure, but fMRI most certainly was not it. If fMRI was used, then it can only be a functional difference, there is no way to observe a structural change with fMRI unless it is something gross (like a 5x5x5mm cube of brain tissue suddenly went missing). If T2-weighting was used, then one is still limited to fairly gross changes (lets say a cube that is 1 mm^3 in volume). Finally, we arrive at the various diffusion MRI techniques, which have no established ground truth, but whose models can provide sub-voxel resolution. Not enough information to really evaluate in the OP.

Comment Re:Didn't you Know? (Score 4, Insightful) 342

The people writing the checks need to better understand that these scientists are the main reason that the US economy does as well as it does. We have had and to date maintain a significant advantage over other nation states in terms of our technological innovation. However, it is undeniable that other countries are fast catching up. Our technological advantage is not a given thing, we have to properly fund R&D for it to be maintained. Technological prowess leads to economic health.

Comment Re:What am I missing here? (Score 3, Insightful) 223

Think of photons as the central point from which oscillating magnetic and electric fields originate. And that this point moves through space at ~3x10^8 m/s. It is kind of like throwing two stones into water and watching the resulting interference patterns, excepts that the centers of those patterns are moving instead of stationary. Hence, collision isn't really an apt description.

Comment Spectroscopy with MRI (Score 3, Informative) 23

Disclaimer: I am a physicist who works in MRI. MRI can be used to measure concentrations of certain biochemicals. MRI is sensitive enough to different proton-containing species that the frequency difference between fat and water causes image artifacts that can pose great difficulty. Not all biomolecules are sufficiently concentrated in the brain, or have a spectrum that is unique enough to be measured in vivo. A good example of a brain chemical that can be measured is N-acetyl aspartate (NAA), which has a proton peak at around 2 ppm that doesn't overlap with much else. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy is very difficult, and is most easily accomplished on research scanners operating at 3 tesla or higher. The reason for this is that rather than letting all hydrogen nuclei contribute to one signal that is then spatially located, one must parse what kinds of nuclei (i.e. what their chemical shift is) within each voxel. This not only imposes technical difficulties, but reduces the signal to noise ratio, potentially requiring more signal averaging in order to see sufficient signal above the noise floor.

Students Banned From Bringing Pencils To School 426

mernilio writes "According to UPI: 'A Massachusetts school district superintendent said a memo banning sixth graders from carrying pencils was written without district approval. North Brookfield School District interim Superintendent Gordon Noseworthy said Wendy Scott, one of two sixth-grade teachers at North Brookfield Elementary School, did not get approval from administrators before sending the memo to all sixth-grade parents, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported Thursday. The memo said students would no longer be allowed to bring writing implements to school. It said pencils would be provided for students in class and any students caught with pencils or pens after Nov. 15 would face disciplinary action for having materials 'to build weapons.'"

US Embassy Categorizes Beijing Air Quality As 'Crazy Bad' 270

digitaldc writes "Pollution in Beijing was so bad Friday the US embassy, which has been independently monitoring air quality, ran out of conventional adjectives to describe it, at one point saying it was 'crazy bad.' The embassy later deleted the phrase, saying it was an 'incorrect' description and it would revise the language to use when the air quality index goes above 500, its highest point and a level considered hazardous for all people by US standards. The hazardous haze has forced schools to stop outdoor exercises, and health experts asked residents, especially those with respiratory problems, the elderly and children, to stay indoors."

Comment Re:Ohio University Press Release is Misleading (Score 1) 97

Ohio STATE University. Not Ohio University. There is a huge world of difference. And PR is important, relying on the general media to disseminate information from original scientific journal articles doesn't work. Scientists should be the ones presenting their work, not journalists who are at best mildly fluent in the research areas they cover.

Happy Towel Day 122

An anonymous reader writes "While Douglas Adams continues his attempt to set a new record for the longest extended lunch break, geeks all over the universe pay tribute to the beloved author by celebrating the tenth edition of Towel Day. Towel Day is more alive than ever. This year Richard Dawkins, one of Adams' best friends, has tweeted a Towel Day reminder to his numerous followers. The CERN Bulletin has published an article on Towel Day. There has been TV coverage and there will be a radio interview. The Military Republic of the Deltan Imperium, a newly formed micronation, has recognized Towel Day as an official holiday. In Hungary several hundreds of hitchhiker fans want to have a picnic together in a park. And there's a concert, a free downloadable nerdrap album, a free game being released, the list goes on and on."

Aphid's Color Comes From a Fungus Gene 132

Iron Nose writes with an account from Byte Size Biology of horizontal gene transfer from a fungus to an insect. The author suspects that we will see lots more of this as we sequence more genomes. "The pea aphid is known for having two different colors, green and red, but until now it was not clear how the aphids got their color. Aphids feed on sap, and sap does not contain carotenoids, a common pigment synthesized by plants, fungi, and microbes, but not by animals. Carotenoids in the diet gives many animals, from insects to flamingos, their exterior color after they ingest it, but aphids do not seem to eat carotenoid-containing food. Nancy Moran and Tyler Jarvik from the University of Arizona looked at the recently sequenced genome of the pea aphid. They were surprised to find genes for synthesizing carotenoids; this is the first time carotenoid synthesizing genes have been found in animals. When the researchers looked for the most similar genes to the aphid carotenoid synthesizing genes, they found that they came from fungi, which means they somehow jumped between fungi and aphids, in a process known as horizontal gene transfer."

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