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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Welcome Back for the 2016-17 School Year!!!

I hope you have all had a wonderful summer, with a chance to relax, re-charge, and get set for the 2016-17 school year!! I know we will have great phun as we pursue another year in physics. The 3 Chem-Phys classes will begin a focus on classical mechanics, with some number of other topics to enter into the discussion. The third period, first-year physics class will become the scientists as they help me how to figure out our world essentially from scratch! And the seniors in 4 Chem-Phys will have to put up with me a second year as we enter the crazy world of electricity and magnetism - some topics will attract attention, while others are bound to be totally repulsive to students...(that's all I got at the moment). All seniors will be busy with college apps and all that comes with that process, but hang in there, you will make it through, I promise.

Here's to a great year!! Never hesitate to come chat with me about anything, as I want each and every one of you to learn a lot and have a great time doing so. Thank you!  :-)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hand written notes generally better for learning than typing on a computer

I've posted on this before, but it is important as ETHS and many other districts continue on the 1-to-1 technology path. Sometimes 'old school' is better than using technology for everything. For instance, more and moer studies are reaching the same conclusion that taking notes the old fashioned way, by writing, is better for learning for most people than typing notes out on your computer. There are several reasons for this, but it can generally be summed up that the more senses and the more time we can give our brains to process information, the better - the more synapses are created, making for better conceptual understanding and memory. Check out a Scientific American article on this topic.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

How elite sprinters go so fast

A second article relevant to the Olympics is how elite sprinters go so much faster than the average human. Check out the article and video at Scientific American, where measurements are made on a world class sprinter. It turns out the hit the ground much harder than the average person (and think about the 3rd law - if you hit something harder, it will hit you harder, and provide a larger acceleration). Cool!

Physical exercise benefits cognition

In the spirit of the Olympics, a long-term study shows a significant cognitive benefit to those people who exercise regularly and maintain good physical fitness. Check out a summary article in Scientific American. The researchers admit that why this is true is not well understood, but some hypotheses are that the increased blood flow during exercise, which includes more oxygen to the brain, is a benefit to the brain and its cognitive power. A second possible reason is that during exercise, cells produce more mitochondria, which, if you remember your biology, is the energy plant of a cell. So even brain cells have more energy to use due to exercise. A third possibility is that increased heart rates increase neurogenesis, or the growth of more brain cells.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Wolfram Language Online

Check out Wolfram Language, which is a powerful, but 'simplified' way of programming. There is an online interactive book that will allow you to learn this way of programming, with numerous examples and exercises to try as you go. This looks very promising as I skim through it, so it may be the way to go if you want to learn a programming language...may be the easiest language yet, so let's find out!

Also can check out:
The Wolfram Programming Lab where you can open a notebook online, for free, and try Wolfram Language.
Mathematica Online if you want to check out what numerous colleges use for STEM coursework, research, and so on.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Israel showing how to do desalination on a massive scale

Just a few years ago, Israel was in its worst drought in some 900 years. Out of necessity, investments were made in desalination plants. Now, Israel has more clean, potable water than it needs! One 'trick' to get around bacteria that ere clogging the filter pores that captured larger salt molecules as water molecules passed through was to add in natural lava pieces that filter out bacteria prior to getting to the salt filters. Human ingenuity in action, as well as making use of natural solutions to modern problems. Check out an article here.

The hope for a new particle fizzles with more data

Out at CERN, the highest energy machine in human history (yes, it unfortunately outdoes what we had at Fermilab by several times now), a hope for a new, unpredicted particle seen in some of the data last year, has statistically gone away as new data runs have been added. This is a good example of how science works, where one does not just take some new little spike in a data set as a new discovery and, in this case, a sign for new physics beyond the Standard Model (which is the theory that explains and describes what we know about particles, matter, and forces).

Each branch of science has standards that must be met before one can claim a discovery, and in particle physics it is a '5-sigma rule' where there must be, effectively, small enough uncertainties that will allow a 1 in 3.5 million chance that the discovery is something other than what we think it is, i.e. a miniscule chance that the data are showing a fluke. I know about this firsthand when, back in grad school and on an experiment searching for the top quark, we had a mass peak but, due to the statistics of the data set, we only were in the 2 sigma or so range that this was the top quark. We felt pretty confident that it really was, since there were multiple checks and re-checks of the detector, software, and data quality, but we could not claim discovery - we instead published a paper on the 'evidence for the top quark.' It took another year of millions more collisions before we reached the 5-sigma standard, and then claimed discovery. I am glad to see these scientists are doing things the right way, and upon further review and new data, found out the peak seen earlier is apparently a statistical fluctuation.

See a Scientific American article here.