© Norman Sperling, December 25, 2010
What if your club, institution, or company gets access to a lot of the Science-interested public for a few days? What if they come to you, or meet you in a nice venue? What messages would you most want to get across? What could those contacts be best used for? What if you had 10 months to prepare?
Around San Francisco, the Bay Area Science Festival is planned for October 29 - November 6, 2011. But hardly anyone I talk to has heard about it yet!
One indication that the planning's cast in Jell-O® rather than concrete is that they say it's going to be a 10-day event, but the days they list total 9. So it's not too late to get involved. If you're in the Bay Area, think through your optimum result from such a festival. Think through how to achieve it. Then contact the Festival folks to make sure you get included. I'd guess that the more self-contained your package, the easier it should be for them to include.
Here's what I've gleaned so far:
© Norman Sperling, December 19, 2010
Exam week holds terrors for teachers as well as students. This week, I wallowed in eye-strain by reading 61 3-hour intro-astro essay finals on the prompt: Starting with hydrogen and time, narrate how the Universe began and evolved to us, here, now.
We had a record number of A+ essays, and not a single F. I expected their bloopers to fill a big post, but only found these 5:
* [Newton's Law of Gravity described] why we are orbitting the moon.
* Neuron stars are created by supernovas. They are made entirely of neurons.
* In the "oscillating universe" theory, there will be a Big Bang and then a Big Crunch (where everything comes back together) every 140 years.
* [Kepler's Third Law] No matter where in orbit the area formed by the diameter of the planet to the sun will always be equal.
* Along with gas giants, black holes are also observed on Earth.
+ + +
Here are cosmology bloopers from classes longer ago:
© Norman Sperling, December 12, 2010
Instant-A Alert! Any student who solves this problem, to the satisfaction of experts in this specialty, gets an instant A for this entire course, regardless of anything else.
My astronomy students see this message 20 or 30 times a semester. I use it whenever a topic isn't resolved, whenever something remains unknown or not understood - such as magnetic fields. Textbooks' traditional "positivist" style systematically tells what IS known, and determinedly leaves out what ISN'T known. This gives students the false impression that Science is all about stuff that's already securely known. Textbooks usually neglect the thrill of the chase, and systematically avoid mentioning what isn't known.
So I make quite a point of it. I even emphasize it with this offer of an "Instant A".
Students I re-encounter many years after they took my course still remember the offer and its point.
Of course, this is not just a surface issue.
© Norman Sperling, December 5, 2010
The Journal of Irreproducible Results that I just took to the printer - volume 51 #3 - features a number of wonderful takeoffs on new and old themes. A brilliant article solves the puzzle of how to make Cold Fusion work: use polywater!
Cold Fusion, as reported in 1989, was clearly a bust. That's not how nature works. There is, however, an underground mumble from quite a number of scientists that when related experiments are done to the most scrupulous standards, the results are not strictly according to textbooks. The version we make fun of is explicitly the 1989 junk. Good Science done since then deserves a closer look.
JIR often prints real science which is amusing. Our title attracts articles on the reproducibility of results. We've got another one this issue, and it ties in with an article due very soon from a major, main-stream scientific journal.
We also have takeoffs on:
personnel reviews ... for a fax machine
psychological "faces" scales ... for symposia
folie a deux ... for "word salad"
math exams ... describe a tea pot
New Age Kundalini ... for demography
husband training ... in the manner of canine training
and faculty evaluation ... divide citations by years since PhD.
We have a poem about traffic jams
and a song about thermodynamics.
We also have a recent-high of pseudonymous authors: 4. JIR has published articles under pseudonyms since it began in the 1950s. 2 or 3 of this issue's pseudonyms appear to be parts of the wit of their articles. The other(s) conceal submitters who may have professional reasons to not be identified. Yes, that still happens, and it isn't just because "serious" bosses might frown on "humorous" writing. Some doings that JIR snickers at really aren't the way quality professionals ought to work. If all professional institutions would shape up, we would happily do without that type of article.
For authors we can identify with confidence, the Americans come from Maryland, Colorado, California, Texas, Maine, Iowa, and Tennessee. Other authors come from Hungary, India, Canada, and Australia.
To JIR's Past Authors:
Media are changing a lot, and JIR's old copyright/permission forms didn't anticipate today's situation any better than anybody else's did. Certain articles could be transformed into online postings, audio podcasts, videos, performances, anthologies, and/or posters. We appeal to past authors to tell us their current addresses, because, unless they're current subscribers, we don't know where to find them. For deceased authors, we would like to find their heirs or literary executors. Anyone knowing the true authorship of pseudonymous articles before 2004, please tell us.
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