Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Interactive Chart: Climate Change at 1.5C and 2C

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

Earlier I made some comments on the recent release of the special report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C rather than 2 degrees C. This would require rapid, far-reaching, and  unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, changes that should start now (or better, 20 years ago).

CarbonBrief extracted data from ~70 peer-reviewed journals to show the differences between a 1.5 degrees C and a 2 degrees C change. The interactive chart is reported in categories and regions.

The categories include oceans, ice, temperature, rainfall, drought, storms and flooding, crops, nature, economy, and health.

The regions include Europe, Africa, Americas, Asia, Caribbean and small island states, China, and Australia.

John Maddox Prize Awards

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler

The 2018 John Maddox Prize awards have been announced. 

This year, number seven, the Maddox prize is a joint award, shared by Britt Hermes, a PhD student in evolutionary biology at Kiel University, Germany, and Terry Hughes the director of the Arc Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Australia. Hermes who abandoned naturopathy after examining the evidence lost personal friends as a result of her decision and is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit. Hughes, a tireless reef advocate has drawn attention to the impacts of coral reef bleaching "in the face of," as one judge observed, " hostility and pushback from politicians, denialists and even the tourist industry in Australia."

The awards page includes brief comments from the winners as well as the judges. Photographs are included, too.

The John Maddox Prize is operated by Sense About Science, "an independent campaigning charity that challenges the misrepresentation of science and evidence in public life. We advocate openness and honesty about research findings, and work to ensure the public interest in sound science and evidence is recognised in public discussion and policymaking."

Britt Hermes writes about naturopathy on her blog, Naturopathic Diaries

John Maddox, about whom you may read more here, was a long time editor of the prestigious British science journal Nature.

What follows the colon in Sense About Science is "Because Evidence Matters."


 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Redefining the World's Measurement System

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Nature of Science
History of Science
Edward Hessler

In How Big is a Foot?, Rolf Myller tells the story of a King and Queen who have everything except a bed. One of their problem is that no one knows just "How big is a bed?," for beds had not yet been invented. How can they figure this out so that the King can give the Queen a special present for her birthday?

In this delightful video made by a teacher and his students, you can see the story and listen as one of his students reads it. The narrator, commenting on the video four years later, says "Wow my voice was high back then."

Measurement has also been an important problem in the sciences for a few centuries. Scientists have worked to improve the accuracy of basic units of measurements. Early on, some of the standards depended solely on physical objects but these objects were found to change over time no matter the attempts to protect the standard units of measurement. Until this year, the only measurement depending on a manufactured object is the kilogram.



In November 2018, the world’s measurement experts were expected to revise the International System of Units (SI), this time approving a system that does not depend on physical objects. Instead, it’ll be based entirely on the speed of light and other “constants” of physical science, resulting in a measurement system that might truly and finally be for all times and for all people.

The SI has seven "base" units, such as the second, meter, and kilogram, from which all other measurements, e.g., the watt and volt, can be derived. The aim has been to develop a system that uses exact, fixed values for the constants--such as Planck and Botzmann--to define all seven SI base units.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a summary with a video on redefining the world's measurement system, infromation about the constants (e.g., speed of light, Planck constant, Avogadro's number and the charge of the electron), and a map of the road from 1799 when the metric system was official adopted to present with important markers along the way. 

Brooks Riley's cats weigh in on the changes.













Saturday, November 17, 2018

Dueling Books

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

In March 2017, The Heartland Institute, a conservative think take well known for climate change denial, mailed a booklet (accompanied by a DVD) to teachers entitled Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming.  A new booklet is planned although there are few details.

The National Center for Science Education's Glenn Branch has published a piece about this which includes other resources for teaching global climate change.

I also recommend two additional resources. The first is the section in A Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC 2012) on Global Climate Change (pp. 196-198). This may be read on-line and dowloaded (fully or sections) free.

The second is the NSTA Position Paper entitled The Teaching of Climate Science. It is a  resource I value. If you haven't examined, please don't miss the chance.  

You will note in the Frontline quote the phrase on teaching global climate change,  "'explain' to their students...." "Explain" is not found in the NSTA position paper.The NSTA position paper suggests a much more active approach on the part of the student than the "stand and deliver" stance, explains suggests.




Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Today's poem is by the late Jim Harrison.

I like this "biography" because it tells us so much about him and writing. And the analogy in the essay's title is perfect. He was indeed "the Mozart of the prairie."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Novel Approach to the Study of Climate Change

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler


What can 36 years of bike racing footage tell us about climate change? A report in Methods in Ecology and Evolution by Ghent University researchers using this source of data caught the eye of Katie Langin.

Langin, a writer for Science, describes a new source of climate change data. It was old television footage of the Tour de Flanders, "a professional cycling race that's taken place in Belgium nearly every April since 1913."  Much of the race is on heavily cobbled roads.  The University of Ghent researchers  picked out 20 trees that were visible from 1981 to 2016.  The data they collected were simple: presence/absence of leaves and their size.

Langin's short summary is that "the old footage reveals that spring has sprung earlier along the race course in the past decade. In the 1980s, hardly any trees had leaves during the race. But from 2006 to 2016, 45% of trees had at least started growing leaves."

Langin's short essay may be found here. Langin links to the original paper but I copy it here. The abstract is worth reading and provides information about the study, e.g., After viewing >200 hr of film, we compiled 523 individual × year observations of leaf‐out and flowering of 46 individual trees and shrubs visible in four decades (1981–2016) of video footage.
Langin also provides a link to leaf-growth record studies which provide evidence for earlier leafing out times.

h/t Katie Langin, Science

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Arriving Just In Time For Snow

Environmental & Science Education
Children
Miscellaneous
Edward Hessler

You probably remember the first snowfall of childhood winters and rushing out to be in it.

What a glorious feeling.

This short video shows Eritrean children dancing and exclaiming about the first snow they have ever seen or felt or smelled or tasted.  A Canadian welcome.

This is magic.

One of my favorite books is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. There is an animated video with narration here.

This is also magic.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Fifty Years Ago On the Teaching of Evolution in Public Schools

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Biological Evolution
History of Science
Edward Hessler


The fiftieth anniversary of 
Epperson v. Arkansas was yesterday, November 12, 1968. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled (9-0) that an Arkansas law barring the teaching of evolution in public schools violated the First Amendment's establishment clause . Amendment I reads:


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Susan Epperson challenged a 1928 Arkansas statute.
It shall be unlawful for any [public school] teacher … to teach the theory or doctrine that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals”, the law stated. “[A]nd also it shall be unlawful for any teacher … to adopt or use in any such institution a textbook that teaches the doctrine or theory that mankind descended or ascended from a lower order of animals.

There is an article celebrating her, the decision and what followed in the November issue of Church and State, a monthly magazine published by the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Once Epperson v. Arkansas had been settled, new challenges from anti-evolutionists followed which are discussed in the article, e.g., scientific creationism, intelligent design and teach the controversy under the guise of academic freedom. Three states have enacted laws on teaching the controversy: Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee.

The theory of evolution is supported by multiple lines of evidence: observational, experimental, DNA, paleontology, developmental, behavioral, population biology, physiology. Anti-evolutionists use arguments that don't explain the data, the hallmark of science.  

Glenn Branch of the Center for Science Education summarizes the importance of the Epperson decision in these words. The Epperson decision reshaped the legal landscape and has had a continuing impact not only on jurisprudence but also in what is being taught in evolution. Biology teachers, whether they know it or not, have benefitted from Susan Epperson standing up for teaching it.

Epperson later taught chemistry and biology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs where she is now Instructor Emerita.

Thanks Ms. Epperson.

Here is the Wiki entry on Epperson v. Arkansas. 








Sunday, November 11, 2018

100 Years Ago An Armistice

Environmental & Science Education
Society
Edward Hessler

World War I came to an end at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the end of this costly war.  The death toll of WWI is in the millions with some 9 million combat deaths, 21 million soldiers wounded and civilian deaths in the millions.*

Once known as Armistice Day--Remembrance Day in many countries. the United States rededicated November 11 as Veterans Day.

Adam Hochschild, a New Yorker writer, calls attention to how badly the First World War ended.  He writes that "few Germans considered themselves defeated" leading to a festering resentment that contributed to a later war.  "The war," Hochschild writes, "ended as senselessly as it had begun." Commanders knew that firing was to end at 11 am but "thousands of men were killed or maimed during the last six hours of the war for no political or military reason whatever."

The National WWI Museum and Memorial installed Reflections of Hope: Armistice 1918, a grouping of poppies, by artist Ada Koch.

On Receiving the First News of the War by Isaac Rosenberg who was to become known as one of England's finest "trench poets" was one of the victims of WWI. His remains were never found. The poem includes biographical information about him.

Here is another poem, And There Was A Great Calm, by Thomas Hardy on the signing of the armistice. You may link to his biography by placing your cursor on his name.

*In addition to humans, millions of horses, donkeys, and mules were killed. (Note added),


Friday, November 9, 2018

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

There are many good poems about cats, among them this poem by Marge Piercy--poet, novelist, memorist--who is an observant aleurophile. It shows in this lovely poem.