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Comment In my experience (Score 5, Interesting) 132

High school computer science teacher here in my 4th year of teaching. This year, I've emphasized group programming much more than the past 3 - I used to do 50/50 group/individual in-class stuff, but this year nearly every in-class exercise is done with randomly-assigned partners in my Intro and AP courses. The difference in comprehension is astounding - students are grasping concepts much quicker than usual. The thing is, when they go off on their own to do individual assignments now, they do so with much more confidence, thanks to the discussions they were able to have with their partners.

FYI, I teach at an all-girls school, so it's possible that these are unique results for girls, but I imagine that boys would similarly benefit from working with partners.

Comment Re:computers come with accessible languages (Score 1) 330

Here's some Python, that will work in Python 3.1 (which is the most consistent for educational purposes, in my opinion). No external libraries required - all the standard distributions of Python 3.1 include turtle graphics.

from turtle import *
tracer(10, 0) # speeds up display - turtles can be slow!
for x in range(-160, 160):
        color(x / 320 % 1, x / 160 % 1, x / 100 % 1)
        goto(-x, -100)
        goto(x, 100)

More fun, in my opinion, are recursive functions:

from turtle import *


def tree(length):
        if length 1:
                tree(length * .6)
                tree(length * .6)


Role Playing (Games)

Looking Back At Dungeons & Dragons 189

An anonymous reader sends in a nostalgic piece about Dungeons & Dragons and the influence it's had on games and gamers for the past 36 years. Quoting: "Maybe there was something in the air during the early '70s. Maybe it was historically inevitable. But it seems way more than convenient coincidence that Gygax and Arneson got their first packet of rules for D&D out the door in 1974, the same year Nolan Bushnell managed to cobble together a little arcade machine called Pong. We've never had fun quite the same way since. Looking back, these two events set today's world of gaming into motion — the Romulus and Remus of modern game civilization. For the rest of forever, we would sit around and argue whether games should let us do more or tell us better stories."

PhD Candidate Talks About the Physics of Space Battles 361

darthvader100 writes "Gizmodo has run an article with some predictions on what future space battles will be like. The author brings up several theories on propulsion (and orbits), weapons (explosives, kinetic and laser), and design. Sounds like the ideal shape for spaceships will be spherical, like the one in the Hitchhiker's Guide movie."

Comment Re:A practical use (Score 1) 176

Exactly why I hope to work on getting (or see someone else work on getting) the new turtle module ported to work with Canvas objects. It has a couple very straightforward interfaces, and would be awesome for creating animations - and it has the added bonus of probably not being that hard to port.

Obviously a port of SDL (and thus all the libraries/modules that depend upon it, such as pygame) or pyglet is not likely to happen, but it seems like there will be quite a few simpler options. And this also opens the doors for other, web-Python specific libraries that use HTML/Canvas as their primary means of output...

Comment Re:A practical use (Score 1) 176

JavaScript has a lot going for it, but it also has quite a few downsides. Just off the top of my head:

  • A very obscure sense of "type." While Python is looser than many languages in this regard, Python throws the concept of type out the window. The prototype system, while incredibly flexible, is best used by people who already understand object-oriented programming. It's difficult to start with that.
  • No strong set of coding rules/guidelines. Semicolons are semi-optional, variables can be declared but don't have to be, functions can be defined using multiple syntaxes... Many beginning (high school-aged) programmers are used to a system where there is One Right Answer. Programming introduces the idea that there is more than one way to solve the same problem. To throw JavaScript's notion that there is more than one way to express the same answer into the mix seems like too much.
  • It's great that JavaScript can be used from within a web browser. However, doing anything meaningful using JavaScript with a web browser requires at least a working knowledge of HTML and the DOM. I'd rather focus on the basics of programming separate from that first.
  • Speaking of web browsers, JavaScript implementations from browser-to-browser have nontrivial differences. Again, I'd prefer to focus on the bigger concepts without getting bogged down in implementation details.

Comment A practical use (Score 4, Interesting) 176

As a high school computer science teacher, I can see a practical application of this. Currently, I think Python is one of the best languages to learn basic programming concepts with, in that it is relatively straightforward, powerful, and there's not much "voodoo" to prevent students from diving right into programming. It's possible to do some really cool things in Python with not much code.

However, one of the problems is that it can be difficult to give students a way to show off their code. Since it's an interpreted language, they can't just give an .exe or a .app file to someone else to show it off - they need to say, "Oh, go and install Python, and these libraries, etc." Yes, there are solutions such as py2exe and py2app, but getting these set up can be quite a task in itself. By running Python inside JavaScript, you basically open up the whole web-connected world as a potential audience to these budding programmers. It's much easier to say, "Hey, check out this link!" than "Hey, download Python (but get the right version) and this graphics library, then download my .py file, and open up a command prompt and type python blahblah.py!"


"Definitive Evidence" For Ancient Lake On Mars 102

TheSync writes "Eurekalert reports on 'definitive evidence' for an ancient water lake on Mars. A UC Boulder research team has discovered evidence of a shoreline on Mars of a 3 billion year-old lake 80 square miles in area and 1,500 feet deep (roughly the equivalent of Lake Champlain). Images came from the HiRISE instrument on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Water carved a 30-mile-long canyon that opened up into a valley and forming a large delta during a time when Mars is generally believed to have been cold and dry. The lack of additional, lower shorelines, shows that the lake dried up very quickly. Of particular interest are the deltas adjacent to the lake. On Earth, deltas rapidly bury organic carbon and other biomarkers of life, making the Martian lake bed and delta a prime target for future searches for past life on the planet."
The Almighty Buck

Console Port of The Witcher On Hold 23

Several sources are reporting that work on The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf, a console port of the popular PC game, has officially been suspended. CD Projekt, makers of the original game, were working with WideScreen Games on the new version. WideScreen says that CD Projekt missed a significant payment for their role in the development, leading them to stop work on the game. They are emphatic that development won't continue until CD Projekt makes good on the debt, but CD Projekt says, "All payments were done on time according to milestone plan. ... Truth is that payments were later than originally planned but this was solely due to delays in production. The delays were growing in the project due to WSG [continuing] to miss the deadlines." The game's future is uncertain.

Comment Re:Hey google, want to save some money? (Score 1) 386

A good mainframe would last decades. Google's frankenframe (lets call it what it is) must be sloughing off parts like skin cells from a Texan with eczema.

In the computer world, where Moore's law reigns supreme, I would much prefer to have an excuse to refresh my hardware every few years and take advantage of all the advancements of technology that have taken place in that time. It seems that Google has figured out how to make this sort of thing modular and easily swappable, so kudos to them.

Comment Re:Keyboard, Mouse and two USBs? And slots? (Score 1) 386

I'm almost certain that's for cost reasons. Sure, Google could probably get Gigabyte to custom-make a board - but then they'd have to pay that much extra to custom-design it, and Gigabyte would probably charge them a little bit more. As it is, they can just use the same lines that Gigabyte is already running, and get the same hefty discount that Joe the Computer builder gets from the massive volume they're running.


Beatles Rock Band Game Coming In September 55

An anonymous reader writes with news that The Beatles: Rock Band has gotten a release date: Sept. 9th. Today's announcement also included details about the contents of the game. Quoting Kotaku: "The Beatles: Rock Band will allow fans to pick up the guitar, bass, mic or drums and 'experience The Beatles extraordinary catalog of music through gameplay that takes players on a journey through the legacy and evolution of the band's legendary career,' according to the release. The game will also have a limited number of new hardware offerings modeled after instruments used by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr throughout their career."

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