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Submission + - Teach Calculus to 5-year olds? (

Doofus writes: The Atlantic has an interesting story about opening up what we routinely consider "advanced" areas of mathematics to younger learners.

The goals here are to use complex but easy tasks as introductions to more advanced topics in math, rather than the standard, sequential process of counting, arithmetic, sets, geometry, then eventually algebra and finally calculus.

Examples of activities that fall into the “simple but hard” quadrant: Building a trench with a spoon (a military punishment that involves many small, repetitive tasks, akin to doing 100 two-digit addition problems on a typical worksheet, as Droujkova points out), or memorizing multiplication tables as individual facts rather than patterns.

Far better, she says, to start by creating rich and social mathematical experiences that are complex (allowing them to be taken in many different directions) yet easy (making them conducive to immediate play). Activities that fall into this quadrant: building a house with LEGO blocks, doing origami or snowflake cut-outs, or using a pretend “function box” that transforms objects (and can also be used in combination with a second machine to compose functions, or backwards to invert a function, and so on).

I plan to get my children learning the "advanced" topics as soon as possible. How about you?

Submission + - IBM Shrinks Bit Size to 12 Atoms (

Lucas123 writes: IBM researchers say they've been able to shrink the number of iron atoms it takes to store a bit of data from about one million to 12, which could pave the way for storage devices with capacities that are orders of magnitude greater than today's devices. Andreas Heinrich, who lead the IBM Research team on the project for five years, said the team used the tip of scanning tunneling microscope and unconventional antiferromagnetism to change the bits from zeros to ones. By combining 96 of the atoms, the researchers were able to create bytes — spelling out the word THINK. That solved a theoretical problem of how few atoms it could take to store a bit; now comes the engineering challenge: how to make a mass storage device perform the same feat as scanning tunneling microscope.

Submission + - Incompleteness Theorem made complete? (

An anonymous reader writes: Kurt Goedel's first incompleteness theorem states that no set of consistent set of rules can be developed to describe the maths of the natural numbers — an earthquake in the world of mathematics when published in the early 1930s. Goedel himself said that this might be straightened out by a better understanding of infinities — and now, reports the New Scientist, UC Berkeley mathematician Hugh Woodin has proposed a theory that does just that — proving Cantor's continuum hypothesis on the way

Submission + - Smithsonian wants your vote (

Doofus writes: "The Smithsonian Institution is requesting help from the general public in selecting some of the most artistic video games, in a variety of categories.

The site allows voters to select games separated into 5 eras, and seeks to develop the exhibition to

explore the 40-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects, the creative use of new technologies, and the most influential artists and designers



Submission + - The mathematics behind the Olympic swim center (

An anonymous reader writes: The National Aquatics Center in Beijing, newly built for the Olympics, is a glowing cube of bubbles. The walls, roof and ceiling of the "Water Cube" are covered — indeed, made from — enormous bubbles that seem to have drifted into place randomly, as if floating on the surface of a pool. But of course, those bubbles hardly skittered there of their own free will. Creating this frothy confection took a lot of steel, a lot of manpower, and not least, a lot of fancy mathematics. The building's designers wanted the foam to look random and organic. But for the engineering to be practical, it had to have some underlying order. So Tristram Carfrae, an engineer at Arup, the Australian engineering firm on the project, looked into the mathematics of foam. He found what he needed — and he also uncovered a wonderful mathematical story dating back to the 1800s.

Submission + - Phoenix Lander Finds What It Came For, Ice

rcullan writes: "Dice-size crumbs of bright material have vanished from inside a trench where they were photographed by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander four days ago, convincing scientists that the material was frozen water that vaporized after digging exposed it. "It must be ice," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson. "These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it's ice. There had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can't do that.""
The Courts

Database Finds Fugitive After 35 Years 459

Hugh Pickens writes "The Guardian has a story on a woman who was claims she is innocent and was apprehended 35 years after escaping prison by a computer database created by the Department of Homeland Security. Linda Darby was convicted of killing her husband in 1970 and sentenced to life at an Indiana prison but escaped two years later by climbing over a barbed-wire fence at the Indiana Women's Prison. She knocked on a stranger's door in Indianapolis, telling the woman who answered that her cuts and scratches were from a fight with her boyfriend. In Indianapolis she met the man who would become her third husband and moved to his hometown of Pulaski, where they raised their two children and watched eight grandchildren grow up. As Linda Jo McElroy, she used a similar date of birth and social security number to her real ones which allowed a computer database created by the Department of Homeland Security to identify her. Darby says she is innocent and fled prison because she did not want to serve time for another person's crime."

Submission + - Exploding Comet - 17P/Holmes (

djupedal writes: The Holmes Comet appears to be exploding, producing a rare sight in the sky. Astronomers have now dubbed it the 'exploding comet,' saying it is now fully a million times its normal size and seems likely to get bigger.

If expansion of the spherical cloud continues, Holmes could soon become a naked eye disk (1/2 the size of the moon) rather than a dimensionless point of light. As it is now (11.3), it is easy to spot by eye and interesting to observe, even if you only use hi-powered binoculars.

Scientists said this is the first time such a thing has been observed (some ship coming out of warp..? 5th Element?), and we may never see anything like it again.

17P/Holmes is currently orbiting the Sun (150 million miles from Earth), still beyond Mars orbit but inside Jupiter's.

3-D Orbit courtesy JPL (Java) image gallery


Submission + - Introducing Dojo's asynchronous xhrGet and xhrPost (

An anonymous reader writes: The Dojo Toolkit's 0.9 release has come with a lot of small changes, most notably to their underlying asynchronous function calls. Where everything used to go through the command, they've separated the functionality into different methods now: xhrGet, xhrPost, xhrPut and xhrDelete. Following is an introduction to the former two methods: xhrGet and xhrPost. Learn how to asynchronously submit forms and transparently send content back and forth between the client and the server using both GET and POST.

Submission + - Fish Poison Makes Hot Feel Cold and Cold feel Hot (

SoyChemist writes: "Ciguatoxin causes bizarre neurological symptoms including temperature reversal, a burning sensation, and an imaginary feeling of loose teeth. It is produced by algae and accumulates in the fatty flesh of tropical fish. While traveling to the tropics, a man from England ate some bad seafood that contained the unusual poison. His story, and the tale of some unfortunate sailors that suffered the same affliction, appeared in the current issue of Practical Neurology and was summarized on the Wired Science Blog. Both the Wired blog and the peer-reviewed journal neglected to mention that the potent neurotoxin has been made from scratch by organic chemists."

Submission + - Schools Placing at 99th Percentile for Cheating 3

theodp writes: "Time reports that sometimes No-Child-Left-Behind really means No-Test-Scores-Left-Behind, creating opportunities for data forensics firms like Caveon (check out their Ten Most Wanted Cheaters poster). Take Houston's Forest Brook H.S., which was a shining example of school reform. In 2005, after years of rock-bottom test scores, 95% of its 11th graders passed the state science test. Teachers were praised and the school was awarded a $165,000 grant by the governor. But an investigation found a host of irregularities and last year's testing was monitored by an outside agency. Test scores plunged and only 39% passed science."

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