Favourites: Week ending August 02, 2012

The big story for me this week was the Op-Ed piece posted by Andrew Hacker of the NY Times when he asked was Algebra really necessary? The science-math crowd certainly seemed to be in a feisty mood because all week I’ve been reading response after response after response and sort-of response.  All are taking the opposite position from Hacker as you might guess. No doubt Hacker was looking for some readership and response and he no-doubt got it. Still, though, I feel somewhat in-tune with his message: mindless drill and practice is a waste and there are other just-as-good ways of getting at higher-order thinking skills. Now, before you all turn on me I know that decent math education is NOT mindless. Perhaps this is just about when it’s done badly and to the exclusion of everything else.

Wind. It’s not like we don’t have enough of it where I live. In a time when we are hotly debating the merits of devoting a significant portion of our financial resources and time to developing a new hydro project (Muskrat Falls, on the Churchill River) it’s useful to look at this article from the Economist showing what Germany is up to with wind power. I’m not being negative to hydro, by the way–once developed it keeps producing for generations–just keeping an open mind for other possibilities.

Did you think that Canada’s online legislation regarding warrantless – online – snooping and copyright protection had gone away? It’s still very much a going concern and the discussions are happening at much higher levels according to Slate.

Ever had a treadmill test? I have, and know quite a few who have also. Looks like those tests are falling from favour though.  That’s still no excuse to ignore any warning signs you might have. Go see your doctor!

In this thoughtful article on Al Jazeera, author Nicholas Mendoza wonders about the dominant scholarly discussion emanating from CERN regarding its work of ‘discovering’ the Higgs Boson and how this is reflective of the West’s (or for that manner any dominant culture’s) treatment of other belief and ‘knowing’ systems.

An article in Forbes wonders if TED is the new Oprah?

Lie detectors, a staple in police dramas and, I suppose, an oft-quoted defense or offense, you know, “Make him take the lie detector! Then we’ll know!!” or “I am telling the truth, give me a lie detector.”  Well, according to the Telegraph, they’re not at all what they’re cracked up to be.  Lie detectors lie.

Wired had an article about Lyfe Kitchen, a proposed chain of fast-food restaurants in the US that will feature healthy items grown responsibly. It’s not just some crazy ‘tree hugging’ ideas either–it’s backed by some industry heavies. I hope it succeeds!

According to Ars Technica the old saying “Women and Children first,” was not that commonly followed.

Do you have a friend or a family member who is new to computers and the Internet. It can be a dangerous place if you are not used to it. Here’s a few tips you might pass on.

Nature has this interesting summary of three separate studies thet were able to track cancer stem cells in mice. Now we know that cancer is not one disease–it’s perhaps more like a symptom that is found in maybe thousands of identifiable diseases (sorry, I am not a physician so please do not kill me for that generalization)–but if these results are in any way generalizable then maybe this will signify a shift in treatment methods. Rather than go after the tumors, maybe some treatments can find the stem cells so that more finely-focused treatments can be devised. …and yes, I am making this up as I go but it does sound exciting.

Teaching Physics and Math is a passion of mine. Obviously I will sit up and pay attention when I see a wicked application of a linear relationship!  The article is in Wired and the author looked at the effect that the mass of the vehicle had on its fuel economy and was able to fit a linear function to the data. What an awesome project!

I’m from Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The fishery is the industry closest to our hearts and minds. Obviously this recent post from Ars Technica, with a NL focus, caught my attention. Liked some of it and hated to read some if it. Author is arguing for a globally-focused self-regulating enterprise. You decide how you feel about it.

Recall that big ice-melt in Greenland that made the news last week. Here’s an explanation from Scientific American.

Construct 2. Now THIS is definitely interesting. It’s a new game-maker from Microsoft.

Have you tried Microsoft’s new web mail service? You can try it here. Microsoft says it can fund it without reading your mail as is the case with Google’s Gmail (which I do love and use by the way). Here’s a review from Gizmodo.

What’s actually the worst word in the English language?

An article from the Atlantic explored part of the world of Casinos, paying particular attention to the role they play as rather bleak entertainment for seniors. The author obviously feels some pain from this and wonders if some of this is cleverly-concealed … I’m reluctant to use the word as it’s stronger than I am comfortable with … chicanery. One big take away  for the author is that, clearly, the longer patrons hang around, the more they spend.

Here’s some good advice for you from Mohandas Gandhi: “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”

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About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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