Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

This poem is by J. D. McClatchy.

Rabbit-Fox-Eagle

Environmental & Science Education
Behavior
Edward Hessler

This remarkable sequence of events, an interaction between a fox and an eagle in a tug of war over a rabbit the fox had killed, was filmed on San Juan Island, Washington.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Bioinspired Microrobots

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Technology
Engineering
Edward Hessler

The summary of a March 1, 2018 press release from the University of Manchester published in Science Daily reads, Jumping robot spiders and swarms of robotic bees sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but researchers are already working on such projects.

The research is led by Dr. Mostafa Nabawy, the Microsystems Research Theme Leader at the University of Manchester's School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering. His team includes a member of the royal jumping spiders (Phidippus regius), trained to "jump different distances and heights, recording the spider's every movement in extreme detail through high resolution cameras which can be slowed down" so that all changes in the spider can be recorded and analyzed.

This work is a lead into the future of manufacturing technology that makes use of complex engineering and manufacturing.  It is new territory for scientists and engineers.

According to the BBC's Helen Briggs,  "The scientists recruited a number of female spiders for their work, buying them at a pet shop in Manchester. But only Kim obliged with making the required leaps when presented with a take-off and landing platform they built in the lab."

I hope you have had the opportunity to watch jumping spiders and look them in the eye(s). What observant critters. They appear to study you as much as you study them. They seem to be every bit as interested, too. And then suddenly, they are gone, having jumped to a new place.

As you know there is considerable scientific research on animal minds. The evidence is that many animals have inner lives, many of them, richly so. Briggs quotes Professor Nabawy about this spider's mind at work. She will jump at the optimal angle, which means that she can understand the challenge that she is presented with. And then she can time her jumping performance at take-off to execute a jump that is optimal in terms of energy demand.

Briggs's BBC report includes a film of Kim's jumping and also a photograph of her in color. What a gloriously beautiful animal.












Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Scientists At Work: Photographs

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Art and Environment
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler

Winners and the runner-ups in Nature's 2018 #ScientistAtWork can be viewed here.

There were 330 entries which ranged from images of researchers at work around the world to depictions of their actual work. The entries were judged by a panel of Nature journalists and art editors.

The editorial introducing the photographs, quotes US photographer Berenice Abbott on the power of photography as a public interpreter of science. "To obtain wide popular support for science, to that end that we may explore this vast subject even further and bring as yet unexplored areas under control, there needs to be a friendly interpreter between science and the layman. I believe that photography can be this spokesman, as no other form of expression can be.”

I recommend you read the Nature editorial which introduces this collection very nicely.




Monday, May 21, 2018

Funky Nests--Funky Places Challenge


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Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Behavior
Biodiversity
Edward Hessler

Have you noticed any nests in your neighborhood, nests in odd, novel, or unusual places?

I just learned today of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's challenge, Funky Nests in Funky Places 2018 which began on April 15. It is not too late to enter a picture.

The webpage has information on everything you need to know to participate including how to observe nest without disturbing the birds, how to find nests, and myths and FAQs about nests. There are four categories: cutest, funkiest, funniest and most inconvenient. So far there are less than 10 entries in each category.

And there are great prizes, too.

See here for instructions in Spanish.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

World's First Atlas: Google Doodle.


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Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Culture
Society
History of Science
Edward Hessler
In 1570 was published the world's first atlas. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, or Theatre of the World. This book of maps was the first in which all the maps were all the same size and organized geographically.
Today's Google Doodle celebrates it's author, cartographer Abraham Ortelius.  In an article about the Doodle and Ordelius CNET's Steven Musil notes that Within one Ortelius' atlas, we see the first suggestion that the world's continents were joined together before drifting to their present positions. Ortelius noted the geometrical similarity between the coasts of America and Europe-Africa and was the first to propose continental drift as the explanation.
The atlas was not intended for navigation but as a work of art and appreciation. It included a dragon or two throughout.
Here is the Wiki entry on Ortelius and here is the Doodle.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tom Lehrer at 90




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Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Culture
Society
History of Science
Mathematics Education
Edward Hessler

In early April, Andrew Robinson wrote an essay celebrating the musical life of mathematician Tom Lehrer who recently turned 90 years old.

In 1959, Lehrer was a Ph.D. student in mathematics at Harvard when he performed the first of more than a dozen astringent, cynical and often pointedly political songs, such as 'So Long, Mom, I'm Off to Drop the Bomb (A Song for World War III)'. As The New York Times put it, 'Mr. Lehrer's muse [is] not fettered by such inhibiting factors as taste." The Times was wrong.  I hadn't known that Lehrer entered Harvard at the ripe young age of 14.

Lehrer never did complete his Ph.D. (It was to have been a contribution to the mathematics of statistics.) concluding that he had nothing to say. So in 1962 he headed across the river to MIT where he taught maths for a decade. Then in 1972 he moved to the University of California-Santa Clara where he taught maths (and one course in musical theater) until his retirement in 2001.

Image result for tom lehrerHere is Robinson's tribute which provides many details and also a link to his first and likely most famous song, The Elements. Ninety-two then but as of 2016, 118 of which 94 exist naturally. The remaining are products of often difficult synthesis. A quick search of the web will yield many more of Lehrer's songs. Robinson writes that depending on who is counting, Lehrer wrote 50 songs (or 37 as Lehrer counted). I include Lobachevsky (with lyrics) which he first performed in 1953.

I can't resist another about the "new math," an attempt in the 1960 to bring mathematics education into the new age...beyond what one might call, to borrow a phrase from theoretical physicists, the "Shut up and calculate" school. Or to put it another way to understand rather than as a set of algorithms. I particularly like this version of Lehrer's hilariously funny New Math. It includes the words which may help you follow the song.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday Poem


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Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

The Friday poem is by Franz Wright.

You may read more about this Pulitzer Prize awardee at the bottom of the poem.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Watersheds: Hawaii


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Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Water & Watersheds
Sustainability
Edward Hessler

You may or may not know that CGEE's reach includes Hawaii although none of this is directly related to watersheds (yet). Watershed education is a big part of CGEE offerings, if not in the foreground almost always in the background.

For some reason I'd never wondered enough about watershed education in Hawaii to look. Yesterday I did.

The Hawaii Association of Watershed Partnerships included a quote by Ralph S. Hosmer, First Terrestrial Forester, that caught my eye. In Hawaii'i, the most valuable product of the forest is water, not wood. This is an interesting slant on watersheds since it is so explicit.

The website includes information on what a watershed is, why watersheds matter, a gallery of images, and a link which describes forested watersheds and Native Hawaiian cultural resources.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Carbon Footprint of a Sandwich


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Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Sustainability
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

Everything has a carbon footprint.

In this short video from Skunk Bear, NPR reporter Adam Cole tells us about the carbon footprint of a  seemingly uncomplicated item, the sandwich known as the BLT.

Please read some of the comments. They are instructive.

Skunk Bear is NPR's science YouTube.

And for those of you who didn't know, a skunk bear is a fierce critter and powerful predator, the wolverine.

Here is some information about Mr. Cole and also about how the name was chosen. It all becomes clear once you know a little about the wolverine.


Monday, May 14, 2018

3 Dimensional Learning: What it Looks Like in a Classroom


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Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Education
Edward Hessler

You may know that the Minnesota Academic Standards in Science will be revised in 2018-2019. Indeed, the process is already underway.

Development of Minnesota science standards includes assumptions to guide the work of the standards committee. Among them is this one: "The standards will be informed by A Framework for K-12 Science Education and include the dimensions of the scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas." This framework can be viewed and downloaded in its entirety or in sections in which you have particular interest.

Briefly, practices are (a) what scientists employ as they investigate, and build models and ultimately theories about the world and (b) engineering practices that engineers use as they design and build.

Crosscutting concepts have application across the sciences.

Disciplinary core ideas have broad importance in science or engineering and are teachable and learnable over multiple grades. They are grouped into the physical sciences, the life sciences, the earth and space sciences, and engineering, technology and applications of science.

Here is what three dimensional learning looks like in a classroom.  The life sciences and the earth and space sciences include opportunities in both classroom and out-of-classroom teaching and learning. This video includes both and also focuses on the behavior of a familiar bird, a bird I like and look forward to seeing each spring: the red-wing blackboard. 

This page from the Minnesota Department of Education describes the development process for science standards, including a time line, the assumptions and access to the standards published in 2009.

I think there is a lot to notice and think about in this video so it could be used for a discussion on learning and teaching.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Squirrels and Bird Feeders


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Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Behavior
Nature
Edward Hessler

Have you ever tried to "squirrel-proof" a bird-feeder?  Maybe you were successful or failed.

Bowdoin College's biology professor Nat Wheelwright recounts his experiences in a short Nature Moments videos. No matter your experience and success or non-success in outsmarting squirrels viewing this film is likely to remind you of squirrel cleverness.

Three comments made about squirrels in the video caught my attention, namely that they are endlessly observant, experimental, and persistent. These remind me of characteristics of field biologists.

One of the most observant, experimental, and persistent is Bernd Heinrich, emeritus professor, University of Vermont. Almost any book he has written showcases such "squirrel characteristics." I recommend two. If you like critters, The Geese of Beaver Pond or if you prefer plants, The Trees in My Forest.

On the other hand, if you prefer to make a choice see here.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Poem


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Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Here is the Friday poem by Rachel Richardson.

It is chilly and windy here.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

All of Us. Huh?


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Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Health
Medicine
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler

I don't have television but happened to be at a place that had a television on Sunday morning (May 6) when Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH was interviewed about a new big data initiative known as All of Us.

The place is noisy at this time of day (early morning) and I had a hard time hearing everything and couldn't get closer to the television screen which was suspended on the wall. 

Here is the "gist"and one reaction.

From one million volunteers (maybe a few more), all of whom will be self-selected, it is expected that there will be a fundamental change in medical care of a very large population. Our current population is in the neighborhood of 325 million.

I'm not a qualified/experienced experimental designer/researcher but had a huge doubt. It sounded like snake-oil to me. Way too good to be true. The big one for me was the sample: size and representativeness. Will it really represent all of us?  It can't! The cost is not pocket change: $1.4 billion.

I don't know a lot about genomics or genetics (enough to be dangerous) but do know that there will be huge differences in ages, lifestyles, urban-rural, male-female, ethnic diversity, environmental factors, etc. In any event such a study calls for some sort of stratification if the data are be analyzed so that interesting information can be teased from the data. Possible causality is quite another thing, a reach. I don't see how this design can provide this..

I don't need to remind you but read my comments with a grain of salt no matter my specchlessness.  This initiative is coming from a major and respected research institution with considerable expertise on experimental design or at least this is my impression.


See what you think after watching this slick video from NIH.

Hope or hype?

PS--I'm going to scout around before I send this to see whether a more informed geneticist than me can provide a more trustworthy analysis and comment.  I found one immediately and while I should completely revise this and have checked first, I'm too lazy. Besides why not let you read it in its wonderful entirety. It is informed and thoughtful. Thanks to Ken Weiss, Pennsylvania State University.




Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Healthy Communities Ranked 1 to 500


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Environmental & Science Education
Sustainability
Health
Society
Culture
Edward Hessler

There is something about lists and rankings that grab the attention of many of us.

One grabbed me today, the ranking of America's Healthiest Communities by U.S. News and World Report and the Aetna Foundation.

Ten health-related criteria and nearly 80 metrics were used in making this judgement about nearly 3000 counties (roughly 325 million Americans). These are population health, equity, education, economy, housing, food & nutrition, environment, public safety, community vitality and infrastructure. The full methodology is described here.

Falls Church, Fairfax County,Virginia was declared the healthiest community in America.

Among my questions about the rankings was how well Minnesota fared and, of course, whether I live in one.

And here are the full rankings. The first Minnesota entry is Carver County at #13. I think Stevens County at #481 is the last Minnesota entry.

An honor roll spotlights 36 top-performing communities. It includes Big Stone, Carver and Sibley counties in Minnesota.

And here are some FAQs to help in understanding the rankings.

You can search by county or zipcode to check the score of a county. My boyhood county, Chenango County, NY scored at 60 and Ramsey County, MN where I currently live, scored 63. Neither made the cut.  Well, I live next door to one or two counties that did

h/t: Andrew Joseph, Morning Round, STAT, March 26, 2018

Monday, May 7, 2018

A Personal Legacy of Childhood Trauma


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Environmental & Science Education
Medicine
Health
Children
Culture
Edward Hessler

Pulitzer prize winning author Junot Diaz's opens his personal history essay (The New Yorker, April 16, 2018) with these words.

X---
Last week  I returned to Amherst. It's been years since I've been there, the time we met. I was hoping you'd show up again; I even looked for you, but you didn't appear. I remember you proudly repped N.Y.C. during the few minutes we spoke, so I suspect you'd moved back or maybe you were busy or you didn't know I was in town. I have a distinct memory of you in the signing line, saying nothing to anyone, intense. I assumed you were going to ask me to read a manuscript or help you find an agent, but instead you asked me about the sexual abuse alluded to in my books. You asked, quietly, if it had happened to me.

You caught me completely by surprise.

This is a story of the childhood trauma of rape. Moving. Touching. Sad. Heart-wrenching. Gut-churning. The essay is about breaking a silence, the stilled conversation. In it, Diaz tells the world  his story for the first time, one he hopes that maybe X will find and read.

Near the end of Diaz's affecting reflection on events in his early life and their effects on his life, he quotes Toni Morrison. Anything dead coming back to life hurts.

Diaz's haunting story hurts and a great part of this pain is knowing how may children experience and live with this for life. I never got any help, any kind of therapy. I never told anyone.

The essay is by no means easy so proceed with caution if you decide to read it (found here). For more information about Mr. Diaz see his personal website.





Saturday, May 5, 2018

Incognito


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Environmental & Science Education
Biodiversity
Behavior
STEM
Edward Hessler

In a sequence from Planet Earth: Blue Planet II, an octopus disguises itself with ocean "jewelry."

When discovered, the shark attacks the disguised octopus but is left confused and the octopus darts away to live another day.

Amazing.





Friday, May 4, 2018

Friday Poem


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Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Today's poem is by Jorge Luis Borges.

A bonus: you can turn the page and read another if you like.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Year of the Bird


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Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Biodiversity
Sustainability
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

I promised to provide monthly updates from the Laboratory of Ornithology on the Year of the Bird-- a year-long celebration of birds.  These updates are about being an active participant in citizen science.

I've been a complete failure.  So I make another start. And it is a weak one at that since I'm not giving anyone much lead time to participate in one of them.

Here is the May menu.

--Join the Laboratory of Ornithology's quest to record more than half the world's species for Global Big Day or to put it another way, "how many birds can you see in a single day?", May 5. Fortunately Global Big Day is generous in thinking about what constitutes a day. It can be a real day or, the part I like so much about it, an hour or even a few minutes. This means that if you have a bird feeder you can watch and record, say while you are eating. It is easy to participate and one goal seems to be in noticing and appreciating.

--You can become a partner with Audubon to help discover how birds are reacting to climate change by participating in Climate Watch. The next survey will take place May 15 - June 15, 2018.

Both of these are age friendly and engaging.









Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Goldman Environmental Prize Awards--2018


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Environmental & Science Education
Sustainability
Culture
Society
Edward Hessler

The Goldman Environmental Prize honors grassroots environmental heroes from the world's six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands & Island Nations, North America, and South & Central America. The prize highlights the achievement of ordinary people who take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.

The focus of the awards includes protecting endangered ecosystems and species, combating destructive development projects, promoting sustainability, influencing environmental policies, and striving for environmental justice. Recipients are often men and women "from isolated villages or inner cities who choose to take great personal risks to safeguard the environment."

The Goldman Prize provides grassroots environmental leaders international recognition, worldwide visibility for their issues and financial support to pursue their vision.

The 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize winners were announced on April 23, 2018.They are:

Africa--Makoma Lekalakala & Liz McDaid. Exposed a massive nuclear deal between South Africa and Russia.

South and Central America (Columbia)--Francia Marquez. Stopped illegal mining on ancestral land.

Asia (Vietnam)--Khanh Nguy Thi. Led development of sustainable long-term energy projections.

Islands and Island Nations (The Philippines)--Manny Calonzo. Enacted a national ban on production, use, and sale of lead paint.

North America (United States)--LeeAnne Walters. Exposed the Flint Michigan water crisis.

Europe (France)--Claire Nouvian. Advocacy campaign against destructive fishing practices of deep ocean bottom trawling.

I was struck by the use of data, evidence and science throughout as well as the interaction of science and society. The recipients are as remarkable as you would expect, people of persistence, patience, passion and intelligence. Deserving of this recognition, too.

The work of the current recipients, a short video and photographs are found here. The comments following the general descriptions are worth a look.

For information about the founders of the prize see here.