Archive for April, 2008

Giove-B Launched

Second European Positioning Satellite Launched

Galileo, which should be operational by 2013, will be both an alternative and a complement to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian GLONASS.

There are some articles which call Galileo a competitor to GPS, which really isn’t the case; this article does a better job. I expect a PND purchased a few years from now, once there are many Galileo and GLONASS satellites in operation, will be configured to accept and process data from all of them.

The Peter Gabriel Operator

There’s an article in Seed entitled “So” and subtitled “The anatomy of a scientific staple” which purports to discuss the use of the word as a preface to scientific pronouncements in the classroom and, I presume, in conference talks as well. I thought perhaps the author was overanalyzing things, but there is this observation:

In the 1990s, Columbia University psychologist Stanley Schachter counted how often professors said “uh” and “um” in lectures and found that humanists said them more than social scientists, and natural scientists said them less frequently of all. Because such words mark places where a speaker is choosing what to say next, Schachter argued, natural scientists’ low hesitation rate underscored the hard facts they were communicating. “So” can be said to have the inverse relation for exactly the same reason. It relays a sense of accuracy and rigor. One doesn’t have to worry about what to say as much as when to say it. “So” is the organizing device for a logic-driven thought process.

I don’t fully agree with this. The delay does help you organize your thoughts; I’m not sure if the observation from the article is necessarily a fair comparison. Does a scientist use “um” rather than “so” when discussing topics in the humanities or social sciences?

Anyway, just a few days ago the Quantum Pontiff gave some empirical data on this; I had been tempted to comment on that but it kinda slipped away from me, but now I shall do so. It was my favorite word as well, when I started teaching. My experience lecturing was in the navy, and since the military is all about training, I was afforded the opportunity (if mandatory training can be considered an opportunity) to acquire and then improve my lecturing technique.

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The Strange-ness Attractor

Female Science Professor makes an observation about random scientific inquiries made to universities

In some cases, the questions are easy and quick to answer — for example, some people call with a question about something they heard on the news. In some cases, people stop by the department (with or without calling first) and expect assistance. At least 62%* of these people are very strange. On several occasions, I have had random people call me and tell me what I should study in my research. Apparently I have been studying the wrong things. I have not yet, however, been tempted by any of these new and creative ideas, 100% of which have been bizarre.

[...]

Do some departments attract more wackos than others, or do all/most academic departments have their own special kind? Someone should study this

I know that in grad school, we had a folder of crank inquiries kept in the department’s main office, and one of my fellow students was once tasked to inspect some gizmo a random person had brought in to show one of the professors (I suspect at that point it’s better to do this than simply send the person away) because he was convinced it was an over-unity device. It wasn’t, BTW. In physics, most of the crackpots fall into three main categories: perpetual motion, anti-relativity, and anti-quantum mechanics. There are other meta-crackpots that just rail against the whole process of doing physics, claiming it’s flawed.

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A Paper From Professor Obvious?

Using examples to teach math

[C]ollege students who learned a mathematical concept with concrete examples couldn’t apply that knowledge to new situations. But when students first learned the concept with abstract symbols, they were much more likely to transfer that knowledge

In a third experiment, the researchers presented 20 students with two concrete examples and then asked them to compare the two examples and write down any similarities they saw. After this experiment, about 44 percent of the students performed well on the test concerning the children’s game, while the remainder still did not perform better than chance.

If I’m reading this correctly, my response is, “Duh!” Maybe it’s just a bad press release, but it sounds like teaching by giving an example isn’t as good as teaching by giving the general concept, and then perhaps reinforcing it with an example. So we look at the paper

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Astronomic Spring Break: Show Me Your Globular Clusters!

Space pics: ‘Galaxies gone wild’

(Why should the particle physicists have all the fun, experimenting with massive bosons?)

Spineless Particles and Vicious Forces

A post over at The Quantum Pontiff reminded me of these mildly dyslexic terms in the title, one of which gets corrected at Google.

spineless.jpg

(I wonder, do dyslexics read “dyslexia” as “daily sex,” as in “I suffer from daily sex?”)

Patent Nonsense

Just when you think things can’t get any sillier. Boeing Patent Shuts Down AMC-14 Lunar Flyby Salvage Attempt

Primarily this is because SES is currently suing Boeing for an unrelated New Skies matter in the order of $50 million dollars – and Boeing told SES that the patent was only available if SES Americom dropped the lawsuit.

Industry sources have told SpaceDaily that the patent is regarded as legal “trite”, as basic physics has been rebranded as a “process”, and that the patent wouldn’t stand up to any significant level of court scrutiny

The patent in question: Free return lunar flyby transfer method for geosynchronous satellites

Taking One For The Team

The Cup Stops Here

Former MLB player Mark Littel puts his balls on the line provides empirical data in a kinematics experiment to demonstrate the effectiveness of a cup.

Cinematic commentary: Neither the acting nor the dialogue are as good as in the classic “George C. Scott hit in the groin with a football”

You won’t hear anything as good as, “Oh, my groin!”

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

Over at Skulls in the Stars, gg issues the challenge to science bloggers: read and research an old, classic scientific paper and write a blog post about it.

I’d love to do “The behavior of gauntlets under the influence of applied forces and gravity” by Juan Duelist.

Seriously, though, I already have one in the works. Coming soon.

Metacognahowsawuzzah?

Metacognitive Miscalibration, or wicked problems and the desire to learn, and other reasons misinformed people think they are well-informed.

Why are the unintelligent or uninformed so arrogantly confident while the intelligent and well informed so often unsure and apprehensive? There is something very human to thinking you know more than you really do about a subject or issue.

Explained in terms of software development.

via Daring Fireball

You Twist and Turn Like a Twisty-Turny Thing

Bad Weather Makes for a Long Day

Changes in mass distribution affect the earth’s rotation rate. A little.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., occasionally adds a “leap second” to the atomic clocks used to standardize time. The last such update took place on January 1, 2006.

Arrg. And so do all of the timing labs around the world. The determination of whether or not to add (or possibly subtract) a leap second is the responsibility of the the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service.

Just In Case You Get Sent Up

How to make your own Pruno

Pruno, a prison wine created from fruit, sugar and ketchup
[...]
[Even though] it tastes so putrid that even hardened prisoners gulp it down while holding their noses, they’ll go to incredible lengths to make it

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