Saturday, August 25, 2012

Spacing Out-My Intellectual Superpower

Apparently spacing out for a while can boost your brainpower

At least that is the story in the popular media. The study actually shows that people who are left alone after learning something remember better than people who immediately move on to the next thing. (So, no phones/games/electronics in class.) It's my own experience that tells me if I start daydreaming about an idea I'll understand it better

Friday, August 24, 2012

What is Your Science Fair Project?

I never entered a science fair but I have judged a few. Some of my favorites were the boy who tested various batteries to see which lasted longest or the boy who measured the performance of a motor at various loads, voltages and currents.

How about designing a computer program to diagnose breast cancer? Brittany Wenger programmed a neural network to consider nine different pieces of information and make a diagnosis of breast cancer. That won her the international Google Science Fair.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Watching Light Travel

If you thought this was fast...

Professor Ramesh Raskar of MIT has been taking video at a trillion frames per second. (Normal video is 30 fps.) The video from his camera of the bullet passing through the picture above would take a year to watch...just fast enough to see light travel. It turns out that if you can watch light travel, you can see the ripeness of fruit, see around corners and observe relativity.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Of Subprime Loans and University Degrees

Are you thinking about going to university? Beware the higher education bubble!

(US data. I'd guess Canada's is less dramatic but I haven't checked.)

In your great-grandparents' day, you took what life had to offer. Only a few would dream clearly, work hard and be lucky enough to get the education to pursue a dream. If it wasn't exactly your dream, well...close enough. In your parents' day, education was easier. Lots of kids got some extra education whether they had the dream or not. The world needed educated people and it was bound to work out. That degree in Psychology was handy to have even if you ended up selling real estate.

In your day the guarantee is gone. University is more expensive; lots of people have generic degrees and degrees are less rigorous/less respected. University still makes sense but only if you know why. Trade school makes sense if you know why. starting a business makes sense if you know why. Any one of those could put a big, expensive hole in your life if you don't know why. More than ever, you need to dream clearly.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Teens Who Will be Happy

Nearly every movie or TV show I see aimed at the teen (or worse, pre-teen) audience sends the message that teens are sullen, moody, pouty, self-centered, narcissistic, disrespectful and rude. Worse: they send the message that this is healthy and proper. Any kid who is not narcissistic and disrespectful is a suck, a goody-two-shoes or some sort of deviant.

A new study says otherwise. The most important indicator of how happy and healthy you will be in life is not money, intelligence, grades, image or even popularity. It is connectedness: can you find people nearby to talk to, to help, to enjoy? Do you join clubs? sports are fine and so is the chess club, church youth group or volunteering group. (Even the video games or anime circles work as long as you are talking, not just gaming.) Don't forget mom and dad. It matters.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Great Leap for the "Quite Poor"

A while back I blogged about a wood stove that promised great benefits for the world's poorest. Today's revolutionary gizmo targets a less poor demographic, though I expect a lot of overlap.

Do you hear people talking about "washing day"? That's because in my grandmother's time, washing took most of a day. That situation is still reality in some places. Worse, drying on a line in humid climates can take weeks and lead to mildew in your clothes and on your children's skin. What can we do about it?