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Sciencey Heroes For Young Children? 614

An anonymous reader writes "Unhappy that all his friends have heroes he knows nothing about (they've all chosen hockey players — actually a hockey player: Sidney Crosby), my eight-year-old son asked me if I would find him a 'cool hero.' When pressed to define 'cool,' he very earnestly gave me this list of acceptable professions: 'Astronauts, explorers, divers, scientists, and pilots.' A second and only slightly less worthy tier of occupations includes 'inventors, meteorologists, and airplane designers.' To be eligible for hero status, an individual must be (1) accomplished in one of these fields, (2) reasonably young (it pains me to report that Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, NASA's youngest astronaut and now just 31, barely makes the cut), and, critically to my naive son's way of thinking, (3) respected by third graders nationwide. Ignoring that last criterion, or not, what heroes would you suggest from the sciences as people whose lives and accomplishments would be compelling to an eight-year-old mind?"

Chip Allows Blind People To See 231

crabel writes "3 blind people have been implanted with a retinal chip that allowed them to see shapes and objects within days of the procedure. From the article: 'One of the patients surprised researchers by identifying and locating objects on a table; he was also able to walk around a room unaided, approach specific people, tell the time from a clock face, and describe seven different shades of gray in front of him.'"

Comment Re:I've said it before, and I'll say it again.. (Score 1) 490

Standard web-based clients (gmail, yahoo, university email systems) don't have built-in encryption/decryption systems. Sure you could find a firefox add-on that adds these, but that that leaves two problems:
1) I don't trust the third-party encryption to not spy on me (and, no, I don't want to read the code for the add-on).
2) I still won't have anyone to send my super-secure emails to: no one I know can decrypt my messages without undue trouble. Firefox add-ons aren't too relevant for most people.

If you have a real solution to those two issues, I'd love to hear about it.

Sun Microsystems

Scientists Need Volunteers To Look At the Sun 110

Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that Royal Observatory's 'Solar Stormwatch' needs volunteers to help scientists spot Sun storms — known as coronal mass ejections — before they cause damage on Earth. 'When you look up at the Sun obviously it's too bright to look at properly,' says Dr. Marek Kukula of the Royal Observatory, but 'with special instruments and telescopes you can see there's all sorts of stuff going on.' NASA already monitors the Sun using two 'STEREO' spacecraft that produce 3D images of earth's nearest star, which can show the trajectory of these explosions. However, the sheer amount of data means NASA's scientists are unable to analyze the data as closely as they need — which is where the world's Internet population comes in. After a brief tutorial, users get access to the actual 3-D images taken by the STEREO spacecraft. If a user believes they have spotted the beginnings of a solar storm, they can bring it to the attention of scientists. 'Every little bit counts,' says Kukula. 'I've spoken to the scientists involved and they all agree that even if you log-on and just do it for a few hours, get bored and never touch it again it's all really useful — and helps them to do their work.'"

Comment Re:are they even legal? (Score 1) 322

They are actually made from real coins, so the real problem would be "defacing currency":

"Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins... shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than FIVE YEARS, or both."
relevant law

Comment Original Sunday Times Article (Score 1) 820

"The cells were then incubated in a solution containing nutrients to encourage them to multiply indefinitely. This nutritious “broth” is derived from the blood products of animal foetuses, although the intention is to come up with a synthetic solution."

Comment Article Abstract (Score 5, Informative) 249

Abstract from the actual paper:
"Electrically charged particles, such as the electron, are ubiquitous. In contrast, no elementary particles with a net magnetic charge have ever been observed, despite intensive and prolonged searches (see ref. 1 for example). We pursue an alternative strategy, namely that of realizing them not as elementary but rather as emergent particles—that is, as manifestations of the correlations present in a strongly interacting many-body system. The most prominent examples of emergent quasiparticles are the ones with fractional electric charge e/3 in quantum Hall physics. Here we propose that magnetic monopoles emerge in a class of exotic magnets known collectively as spin ice: the dipole moment of the underlying electronic degrees of freedom fractionalises into monopoles. This would account for a mysterious phase transition observed experimentally in spin ice in a magnetic field, which is a liquid–gas transition of the magnetic monopoles. These monopoles can also be detected by other means, for example, in an experiment modelled after the Stanford magnetic monopole search."

Comment Re:tests? (Score 1) 165

There are at least 400 students (2 big lectures' worth) that can come to my office hours, and of the 8 or so TAs, I'm one of two or three that are 100% fluent in English. There's also the issue that calc 3 is just hard the first time you see it, so even 5 hours of lecture/discussion a week might not address the specific questions and misunderstandings a student has. I'd say about 10 students come through my two office hours each week, and that's not that big a percentage.

And you're probably right, there's bound to be some ineffective teaching going on with that many teachers involved and some teaching for the first time.

Comment Re:tests? (Score 1) 165

I'm proctoring a test a week from now. We will check every student's ID. It's not quite common practice, but some instructors do insist on it.

The previous university I taught at provided a photo roster for each course. As a TA, I would go through this roster and make sure I recognized the students in my class.

Other people have mentioned actual in-class instruction being useless. As my students are getting ready to take their test, one of the main things I'm noticing is that I can't provide enough one-on-one instruction. At best, I have 5 people in office hours I'm trying to help at the same time. And that's still not personalized enough.

The internet is a great resource, but it's as good for undergraduate education as an encyclopedia. The biggest thing I learned in undergrad is _how_ to think about various concepts, not the concepts themselves - and you get that by talking to people.

"An education is what remains after you've forgotten everything you've learned".

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"I may be synthetic, but I'm not stupid" -- the artificial person, from _Aliens_