Search This Blog

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Scientific American's Top 10 Stories of 2010

Check out the top 10 science related stories the editors from Scientific American selected for 2010. Some are certainly debatable, but I agree the top story was the Gulf oil spill. The poor engineering in its original design to the clever engineering that eventually plugged the well, to the ecological, chemical and biological consequences of the disaster make this a classic multi-disciplinary problem.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Where do Good Ideas Come From?

I read an interesting book over break, written by Steven Johnson, that gets into the ways great ideas have been developed throughout history. My thoughts about the book and the seven themes that are developed can be found here. Any feedback or thoughts are welcome, as always!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Power of Analogy in Learning

In physics, we use a lot of analogies. We compare just about all aspects of rotational motion to linear motion analogues. We compare electrical resistance to electrons bouncing in a pinball machine. Electric circuits are like roller coasters and plumbing systems. Energy and matter are like steam and ice, two forms of the same stuff. So this is not new for us, and it can really help us not only conceptually, but also in problem solving. If you are OK doing the mathematics of air friction, you can do the math of RC circuits, or if you know how to handle springs and pendulums in simple harmonic motion, you can do problems with LC circuits and even a case of Schrodinger's equation in quantum mechanics.

But on a larger scale, there is an interesting post about the power of analogy and how some are now thinking it is the key to cognition and learning in general. The more ways you can think about a system in terms of others that are more familiar and understood by you, then the more likely you are to solve the new problem. By building and modifying what you know about things through analogy, the more creative a solution you might develop when confronted by new problems that can be made familiar to things you know.

There is also a video from Doug Hofstadter at a Stanford forum on this topic. Watch it if interested, and after 13 minutes is the bulk of this topic.

A Video that shows how friction between tire and road is Centripetal Force

An amazing bit of driving by Ken Block! Check out how friction is the centripetal force as well as the force responsible for the motion of a car. I wonder how many years of practice allows one to drive like this. :-)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Life Form!

NASA scientists have discovered an entirely new life form on Earth. This bacteria has had phosphorous replaced by arsenic, which was thought to be an impossibility yesterday, but today it is a reality. Check out the article, which also has a video link with a simulation showing what may be happening to create a new type of DNA. Fascinating!

What a STEM background could mean for you

STEM (short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)areas of study are going to be the growth areas for jobs in the future. Check out this video, which starts of with Steven Chu, Nobel winning physicist and Secretary of Energy, and other industrial CEOs, as they make mention that STEM backgrounds are key to just about any type of job and career a present student may wish for in the next decade. Check it out!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wussup with Ammeters and Voltmeters?

A shout-out to Anja, for producing this video explaining how ammeters and voltmeters are set up, i.e. what the circuitry is in order for these devices to give us measurements of currents and voltage differences. Many thanks!