Tuesday, March 26, 2019

America's Healthiest Communities

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Health
Edward Hessler

STAT's Morning Rounds edited byShradha Chakradher calls attention to this year's list of the 500 healthiest communities from U. S. News & World Report and the Aetna Foundation. Chakradher takes a closer look at the rankings:
  • The design: Population health experts looked at data from nearly 2,900 counties across the U.S. and ranked them based on 80 metrics that assessed community health, such as education, nutrition, and air and water quality.
  • The findings: Iowa was the most represented state, with 62 counties on the list. Counties in Utah have the lowest smoking rates across the country — under 9 percent — and the life expectancy in Hawaii counties is the highest in the nation, at an average of 81 years.
  • The takeaway: “The Healthiest Communities rankings continue to provide the insights that are essential to identify key issues and support community organizations, leaders and residents who are tackling the unique social determinants of health that impact their respective neighborhoods,” Larry Merlo, CEO of CVS Health, which owns Aetna, said in a statement.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Play, Play, Play: The Early Years

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Early Childhood
Play
Edward Hessler

DEY (Defending the Early Years) has a new video--a mini-documentary (about 4 minutes long), featuring early childhood educator Kisha Reid.

A Spanish version (subtitles) is also available.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Fertile Crescent

Image result for fertile crescentEnvironmental & Science Education
STEM
Sustainability
Water & Watersheds
Edward Hessler


The Fertile Crescent — extending from the Persian Gulf through what is now Iraq, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinian territories and Israel — is often called the Cradle of Civilization.

NPR's Amr Alfiky reports on photographer Nadia Bseiso who "Curious about the changing landscape at her country's borders and the people who live there...journeyed to where Jordan meets Israel. ... Bseiso was eager to find out if the area called The Fertile Crescent of the Middle East was the same lush farming area it used to be."

You may see some of her photographs as well as read an interview with her. This is the first of a four-part series. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

Friday Poem

Image result for w s merwinEnvironmental & Science Education
STEM
Art and Environment
Sustainability
Biodiversity
Edward Hessler


Today's poem is by W. S. Merwin who died recently at age 91.

Here are two items about him from the Poetry Foundation:
Image result for palms

First his rich and extraordinary life.

Second from the Poetry Series PBS NewHour, a Jeffrey Brown video interview.

In the late 1970s Merwin "purchased three acres of an old pineapple plantation in Hawaii -- a 'paradise lost,' where little would grow due to deforestation and chemicals leftover in the soil. Little by little, he and his wife began planting trees, and the garden grew into a whole forest of palms from seeds collected around the world." Jeffrey Brown (PBS) and W. S. Merwin give a tour.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Spring: Coming Soon To A Habitat Near You


Image result for spring

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Nature
Edward Hessler

Over at MinnPost Greta Kaul tugs at our sensibilities by providing a hopeful illustrated guide to Spring.

Kaul writes about a group of naturalists, the Minnesota Phenology Network, "who record the time of seasonal flora and fauna events across the state of Minnesota. ... MinnPost analyzed the network's data set to find the average dates of a selection of signs of spring in Minnesota. Because the date things happen in a given year can vary wildly based on location, we've limited out analysis to observations in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area and to phenomena that have three or more recorded observations over time."

See Greta Kaul's lovely watercolors and notes here.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

When Will I Ever Use This?


Image result for math class

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Maths
Mathematics Education
Edward Hessler

Students sometimes ask something along the lines of "Why do I have to learn this (name subject)? When will I ever use this?"

Former member of the Minnesota House Phyllis Kahn provides a great example of when we will use something we were not keen to learn.  It is especially lovely because it involves maths where the questions above are not uncommon. Shudder! It is not one of those problems with answers (odd numbers) in the back of the book but something more important, an idea, a concept to be taken away and used throughout life no matter what we find ourselves doing.

In a recent editorial column, Peter Huthchinson who served as finance commissioner under Governor Rudy Perpich took a swing at the Star Tribune editorial board who advocated that inflation be a factor in the state's economic forecast ("Why inflation doesn't belong in spending forecasts," March 10 2019. It was eliminated under his leadership and advocacy.*)

In a letter to the Star Tribune (March 17, 2019) Kahn noted the mistake of appointing "folks without knowledge of the basic principles of mathematics to positions where this is a prerequisite." The prerequisite to which she refers is surprisingly simple but a basic. Kahn points out that "an equation is invalid when a crucial part occurs on one side and not the other." (underline added)

I once sat in on a summer program designed to certify teachers to teach physics. It was taught by Hamline University physics professor Andy Rundquist. He used a teaching technique that I thought was brilliant. He would ask students struggling with a problem about the construction of fractions and equations. They were mostly in a hurry to solve something, get an answer, and hope its right. End of story. He wanted them to slow down, forget the rush to an answer and think about the tools they were using.

About fractions which are sometimes more than half the content of a physics formula with several terms on top and bottom, Professor Rundquist asked what's on top? what's on bottom?  Why are they there? What would happen if...?  Does your answer make sense? He did the same with equations. What's on the left side? what's on the right side? What if...? What's missing and why does it make a difference? Does your solution make sense?

As we are fond of saying "this is not rocket science." Phyliss Kahn is promoting mathematics for citizenship, useful whether you are a finance commissioner or a voter.

*In another letter on the same date about the same topic former Governor Arne Carlson responded. His administration immediately followed Perpich-Hutchinson. Carlson noted the effect of that innumeracy: a $2.3 billion deficit, a down graded bond rating and the depletion of the state's reserve funds.




Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Abel Prize in Mathematics

Image result for soap bubbles
Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Maths
Mathematics Education
Edward Hessler


The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (Oslo) announced that Professor Karen Kesculla Uhlenbeck,  professor emerita of mathematics at the University of Texas-Austin has been awarded the Abel Prize.

The award is the most prestigious in mathematics and is regarded as the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize. The award includes $704,000 (U. S.).

The press release from the University of Texas describes her career and her many achievements as well as service to the mathematics community.

How soap bubbles shape themselves have inspired considerable work in physics and mathematics. The CNN report notes their contribution or how Dr. Uhlenbeck used them in her research. One of Uhlenbeck's most famous contributions was her theories of predictive mathematics inspired by soap bubbles. The thin, curved surface area of a soap bubble is an example of a "minimal surface," a surface that forms itself into a shape that takes up the least amount of area. Examining how these surfaces behave can help researchers better understand a wide amount of phenomena across a wide array of scientific studies.

Professor Uhlenbeck is the second faculty member at the University of Texas to receive the award. Emeritus Professor John Tate received the award in 2010.



Monday, March 18, 2019

A Doodle by Google


Image result for Seiichi Miyake

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Invention
Engineering
Edward Hessler

Have you ever wondered about bumpy tiles on floor and stairwell surfaces,  at street/sidewalk intersections and on railway platforms?

They are known as "tenji blocks" in Japan.

Today's Google Doodle tells us about the inventor, Seiichi Miyaki. This version which tells you about Miyaki and his smart invention has lousy elevator music in my opinion so turn your volume up or down.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Go Fly A Kite


Image result for kite

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Engineering
Children
Play
Edward Hessler

For many of us being a kid means having toys to play with, at least a few.  For many children in refugee camps this cannot be taken for granted.

This year NPR produced a segment on 10-year-old Fayes Khamal, the "kite guy," who lives in the Hakimpara Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.  Khamal makes kites from leftover scraps of the shelters people live in--bamboo and plastic sheeting/plastic bags.  He is both an avid kite designer and flyer and also equally happy giving them away for others to fly.  First flights are tested and Khamal "says he can feel through the string if it's a success or not." Non-flyers are discarded and I suspect parts that he can use are recycled.

Khamal is a close observer of kite design and flight behavior. The kite is diamond-shaped and includes an element I've not seen before. Khamal "cuts a plastic grocery bag into stips and teases the ends into frilly tassels." These are attached to "the kite to make the tail and what he calls 'arms'--strips of plastic that dangle from each side of the kite and flap wildly when it's flying in the air."

Khamal notes that "'if (the kite) didn't have arms and a tail the kite won't fly well. It would spin around in the sky. It needs these extra pieces.'"

Jason Beauboin's story is lavishly illustrated  with color photographs.

Fayes Khamal is a magic-maker but the story is unbearably sad, too. There is way, way too much suffering on this planet.















Friday, March 15, 2019

Friday Poem


Image result for snowman

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

On Monday while making my way through banked snow, ice and ponds of water, I noticed as wonderful a snowman as I've seen in a long time.

While it lacked the coal eyes, the carrot nose, arms made from thin branches, and a scarf, the sculptors had made three nicely rounded balls of snow for the body and sculpted the eyes and mouth making a smiling snowman. I thought of the two young children with their mother I'd seen the day before near the same place, shovel in hand. Maybe it was them. 

Two days earlier I had read a perfect poem about a young boy and a snowman by the late Richard Wilbur. It makes it own kind of melancholy. I thought about winters past and snowmen I made or helped to make.

The February 9 issue of the 2019 New Yorker has a cartoon with a police car, lights blinking, two officers looking and in the yard they are passing are two snowmen. The caption is "I wish you could have thought up warmer disguises."  I can't find it on the web and with a lapsed subscription I don't have access anymore.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

3.14...


Image result for pi day

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Maths
Edward Hessler

Well everyday is pie day but mathematicians and other number lovers designated March 14 (3.14) as Pi Day.

Just in time for its celebration is the work of Google employee Emma Haruka Iwao who fulfilled a childhood dream by breaking the current record for its value. The new value is 31,415,926,35,897 digits long. It took four months.

Iwao is a Google cloud advocate and used 25 virtual cloud computers to achieve the new value.

Read all about it, see her and learn more about Pi Day here.

It is more than alright to have a pie for dinner and dessert on Pi Day.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Childbirth: Still a Frontier

Image result for cervixEnvironmental & Science Education
STEM
Health
Medicine
Nature of Science
History of Science
Edward Hessler

When we think about faculty in an obstetrics and gynecology department we don't often, if ever, think that one of them might be a mechanical engineer. However, there is one ob/gyn department with such a faculty member. 

NPR's Alison Kodjak recently reported on the research of obstetrician Dr. Joy Sarah Vink and mechanical engineer, Dr. Kristin Myer of Columbia University. Dr. Vink is the co-founder of the Preterm Birth Prevention Center at Columbia University Medical Center. 

What brings this team together is the mechanics and physiology of the cervix and the problem of preventing premature labor. I was surprised to read the following statement by Dr. Vink. "It's mind-boggling that in this day and age, we still don't understand [even] in a normal pregnancy how women go into labor--what triggers labor."  

Kodjack notes that this focus on the cervix is that if "doctors can get the cervix to stay closed in those final crucial weeks of gestation, the baby won't be born too soon, even if the amniotic sac breaks." The article notes that "there are about 1 in 10 premature births in the U. S. each year." Vink is studying what the cervix is made of. One finding is that the cervix has been long thought to be made of collagen but it turns out it has "a lot of muscle."

Image result for pregnancyMyer is studying how the cervix works. As an undergraduate she did research on how tires respond to heat. Then as a graduate student at MIT she worked with a team "who were interested in the mechanics of pregnancy." Myers's work with Vink includes the construction of computational models and "the biomechanics of pregnancy--from how much the uterus can stretch, to how much pressure pregnancy exerts on the cervix, to how much force a baby's kick puts on the whole system." One finding is that the "stiffness (of the cervix) of pregnant tissues compared to non-pregnant tissues changes by three orders of magnitude."

"All those measurements," Kodjak writes, "go into a databank. And when women in Vink's practice get an ultrasound, the technicians spend an extra few minutes measuring the mother's anatomy, as well as the baby's.... Then the team uses their computer models to look at how the various factors--shape, stretch, pressure and tissue strength--interact as a woman moves toward labor and childbirth. Their goal is to be able to examine a pregnant woman early on, and accurately predict whether she will go into labor too soon. It's a first step, Vink hopes, toward better interventions to stop that labor."

Please read Kodjak's full article for details.

A Bee Hive In The Garden


Image result for the hive kew
Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

I think it is fair to say that Kew Gardens is the most well known botanical site in the world.  It was founded in 1840 and houses "the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world."

A large sculpture of a beehive designed by UK artist Wolfgang Buttress was installed in 2017.
The sculpture has garnered many awards and this link shows some images as well as a film of the sculpture.
An article in the Guardian about the installation at Kew notes "With bees pollinating 70 of the most important crops that we eat, including most fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, as they collect the nectar and pollen from the crops’ flowers, Buttress says he wanted to highlight the significance of pollinators to our existence. 'Bees are highly sensitive creatures and can be seen as sentinels for the health of the planet,'” he says.

"Kew’s director, Richard Deverell, said the Hive is a 'great way to tell the story about the relationship between plants and insects'. For that reason, he says the botanical gardens are the perfect new home for a structure that allows us: “to explore the urgent issues we face in relation to pollinators, their intimate relationships with plants and their vital role in helping us feed a rapidly growing population”. 

Sitting in a real bee hive nearby are vibration sensors that respond to vibrations from the activity of the bees. These vibrations "are sent in real time to The Hive." These "drive 1000 LED lights which visually represent the activity of the colony." In addition, "A soundscape composed of bee sounds and an ensemble of musicians plays alongside the ever changing lights. Signals from the real beehive trigger noise gates at particular thresholds, activating sounds from a pre-recorded library."






Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Email


Image result for letter

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Miscellaneous
Edward Hessler

I have a couple of reasons to ask you to visit and browse emeritus professor of computing Donald Knuth's (ka-NOOTH) website (Stanford University). He is highly regarded. His publications provide an idea of his range of scholarship. He is most noted for his work on the mathematical  mathematical analysis of computer algorithms.

I point out something I urge you to open and read once you are at the site. It is under Frequently Asked Questions and is titled "When Did You Stop Using Email?" I don't know why I never paid much attention to this but he recommends dropping the hyphen in e-mail, a rule I will follow, try to follow, in future.

If you poke around at his site I think you will see that he has a great sense of humor. But my real reason for asking you to take a look at this question is his explanation of why he doesn't use email.  Instead, he provides a mailing address and describes how he manages requests. The rule of thumb is "don't expect a prompt reply." He will answer eventually, providing the question is serious.

Cal Newport, a computer scientist at Georgetown University, writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education, uses Knuth's response to explore a question, "Is email making professors stupid?"  It makes an argument for "the long-term value of uninterrupted concentration over the short-term convenience of accessibility."  This is required for scholarship.

The essay, well written and easy to read, while long, makes an important observation about the effect of email on the profession of professing, namely that is has changed the game, making professors middle managers and administrators. Newport explores Knuth's solution.

A few years ago I talked with two research scientists regarding their research which led to two similar but slightly different responses.
Image result for email

One of them was a full-time research scientist working for a government agency. He told me that he missed the old days when he had access to a secretary to handle routine tasks. He no longer thought that he was as productive. He spent way too much time answering e-mail requests and handling other administrative tasks.

The second was a professor in a University department. I wanted to know whether he'd welcome, well consider, having a volunteer in his lab. I thought I could make a convincing case that I might be useful but recognized that I'd need some help and advice from time-to time. He took the request seriously which I appreciated but said that with his own research, publishing, attending scientific meetings, administrative duties, supervising Ph.D. and MS candidates, and keeping the lights on (writing grants) that while he was interested and at one time would have talked with me, he no longer had the time. He also mentioned the demand emails make.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Gone Fishin'

Image result for cormorant fishingEnvironmental & Science Education
STEM
Sustainability
Water and Watersheds
Edward Hessler


Along the scenic Lijiang River in China, brothers Huang Yuechang and Huang Mingde have been keeping up a centuries-old tradition of fishing with cormorant birds. Forgoing nets and modern fishing poles, these brothers have cultivated relationships with their birds in a way that’s found them success in cormorant fishing for more than six decades. But with no young fishermen choosing this ancient method, they may be the last ones to carry on this rare Chinese tradition.

An amazing story.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Friday Poem


Image result for women

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Today's poem is by Elisabeth Eybers.

This poem celebrates and acknowledges International Women's Day..

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Google Doodle: Dr. Olga Ladyzhenskaya


Image result for Olga Ladyzhenskaya

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Maths
History of Science
Edward Hessler

Today's Google Doodle celebrates the 97th birthday of mathematician Dr. Olga Ladyzhenskaya. I knew nothing about her or about her important contributions.

The Independent (U. K.) has a nice essay on four things you didn't know about her, including her practical contributions, e.g., to weather forecasting.

Hunting Behavior


Image result for wolves hunting

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Behavior
Biological Evolution
Edward Hessler

Below are two videos on hunting behavior in the arctic.

The first features wolves cooperating to hunt and kill an arctic hare. It provides a glimpse of how hard wolves work to stay alive and raise a family. It yields a small meal for a group of predators. It also provides an idea of how alert arctic hares must be if they are to stay alive and raise their families. The film was produced by the BBC.

The second features a Canada lynx hunting a snowshoe hare. The film title is "Canadian Lynx," which isn't correct. Reminds me of the late Curt Gowdy, the longtime "voice" of the Boston Red Sox who was fond of talking about Canadian geese/honkers.  Nope, Canada geese.

I dislike pointing out things that you can see and hear for yourself so I won't. I don't want to intrude  into your own observations and discoveries. I hope you notice things I didn't.


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Night Time in Antarctica

Image result for night sky antarcticaEnvironmental & Science Education
STEM
Solar System
Cosmology
Miscellaneous
Edward Hessler


The photographer of Night Sky in Antarctica is astrophysicist Robert Schwarz, the CMB-Observatory (Cosmic Microwave Background) operator at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station--with post-production help, of course.

The very brief notes below the video note that "the Aurora Australis can be seen together with the core of the Milky Way only here in Antarctica. Temperatures below -70°C/-95°F during the polar night are not uncommon. Together with strong winds and exceptional aridity this is one of the hardest places to shoot time-lapse in. Special equipment has been constructed and modified to keep the cameras running."

The music and video are very nicely matched.






Monday, March 4, 2019

Children Strike for Climate Change

Image result for alexandria villasenor
Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Children
Edward Hessler

The late science educator Mary Budd Rowe, whom I have referred to in past posts, gave some remarkable advice to science educators in the final chapter of an also remarkable science methods text (Teaching Science as Continuous Inquiry). 

She used a heuristic device to help us think about what we want school science programs to achieve...to aim for as opposed to merely thinking about a particular program. She set up symposium in which proponents of various kinds of science education programs described and made a pitch for their "unique" program.

At the end, the chair of the symposium made some comments in which significant program similarities were noted, e.g., the programs urged teachers to give their students "the time they need to become actively involved in conducting their own investigations. They expect plenty of mistakes--indeed they accord the student the right to be wrong, to learn from mistakes by retracing one's steps or by reorganizing one's procedures." 

I have always been very fond of the recommendations that followed--good habits of mind. What if "students learned to ask the following questions routinely--" 

On Evidence:
What do I know?
Why do I believe it?
What is the evidence? Do I have it all?
Where did the evidence come from? How good is it?

On Inference:
What do I make of it?
What are all the possible interpretations?

On Action:
What must I do with what I know?
What possible actions should I take?
Do I know how to take action?

On Evaluation:
What does it all mean?
Do I value some outcomes more than others?
Why?

In subsequent publications, Rowe (and others) refined these, e.g., What must I do with what I know? What are the options? Do I know what would happen if...? Do I care?  Does anyone care? Who cares? and so on. You get the idea.

Image result for rosie smart knight
I think about these questions as I follow news on the school strikes for science movement, aka Fridays for Future, Youth for Climate or Youth Strike 4 Climate. 

In its history of these movements, the Wikl entry states that "On  20 August 2018, Greta Thunberg,  then in ninth grade, decided to not attend school until the 2018 Sweden general election
 on 9 September after  heat waves and wildfires in Sweden. She asserts that this move was inspired by the teen activists at Parkland Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, who organised the March for our lives. Her demands were that the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions as per the Paris Agreement, and she protested by sitting outside the Riksdag every day during school hours with the sign Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate). On 7 September, just before the general elections, she announced that she would continue to strike every Friday until Sweden aligns with the Paris Agreement. She coined the slogan FridaysForFuture, which gained worldwide attention. She inspired school students across the globe to take part in student strikes." (see the Wiki entry for links) 

The video clips and news reports I've seen about this event feature students who have thoughtfully answered the kinds of questions Rowe asked. Here are two among several.

One is print, an article written for The Guardian with photos and links by 17-year-old student leader Rosie Smart Knight about the strike held in England on February 15 2019.  

There will be a strike in the United States on March 15 2019. Here is an article and interview by CBS reporters Jeff Berardelli and Haley Ott with 13-year-old student leader Alexandria Villasenor, the lead organizer of the US Youth Climate Strike. They note a Minnesota connection. "In New York, Villasenor is working to influence change with the help of two other teens -- 15-year-old Isra Hirsi who is the daughter of Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, and 12-year-old activist Haven Coleman."

I highly recommend a long article about Villasenor written by science reporter Sarah Kaplan for the Washington Post.

Image result for greta thunbergSomoni Sengupta of the New York Times wrote a article about Greta Thunberg entitled "From an 'Invisible Girl' to an Outspoken Climate Crusader." If you are interested in who she is and how she became the public Greta (it in the beginning) please read it. Sungupta characterizes Thunberg as "Wry. Blunt. Sometimes sarcastic. The opposite of sweet," to wit the following. 

"When Prime Minister Theresa May's office dismissed school walkouts in Britain as distraction that 'wastes lesson time.' Greta swiftly struck  back on Twitter: ' But then again, political leaders have wasted thirty years of inactions. And that is slightly worse.'"

“It’s sometimes annoying when people say, ‘Oh you children, you young people are the hope. You will save the world’” she said, after several grown-ups had told her just that. “I think it would be helpful if you could help us just a little bit.” 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Friday Poem


Image result for mountains

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Today's poem is by Marge Piercy.

She is a fine novelist, too.

Maybe I should just say she is one heck of a writer.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Some Animals In Winter


Image result for winter animals

Environmental & Science Education
Behavior
STEM
Biodiversity
Biological Evolution
Edward Hessler

How do animals tackle the cold?

There are several short videos answering this question in this story from David Suzuki's blog for The Nature of Things (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).

The featured animals are a red fox, Sable Island seals, a hibernating squirrel, a wood frog, river otters whose playfulness seems to say "embrace it," and the grizzly bear who sidles up to a river fishing table to lay on the fat for the winter sleep ahead.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Katherine Johnson Honored by NASA


Image result for katherine johnson

Environmental & Science Educcation
STEM
Maths
History of Science
Women in Science
Edward Hessler

One way to honor a person who has made significant contributions to society is to name or re-name a building after them. On Friday, February 22, 2019 , the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) renamed a computing facility in West Virginia to honor Katherine Johnson. You will recall her from the the book (I'm a book guy.) and movie, "Hidden Figures."

The NASA center is now known as the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility. Among the analytic work she did for NASA was the trajectory analysis for the first human spaceflight (1961) followed by work on John Glenn's earth orbital mission (1962), and Apollo 11 (1969), the mission that landed the first two people to walk on the moon, John Glenn and Buzz Aldrin. Michael Collins was also an important member of that crew.

No matter the hurdles she faced as an African American, a woman, becoming a mathematician, working at NASA in a segregated facility, making complex calculations by hand--try to let that fact sink in, she did her work and did it well. Accurately, too.

In a report I enjoyed by Huffington Post's Carol Kuruvilla "her daughter, Joylette Hylick, told The New York Times her mother 'remains in awe about the honors she's received. Johnson 'can't imagine why people would want to honor her for just doing a good job,' Hylick told the newspaper on Friday." By the way she is also the recipient of the Silver Snoopy award, an award from people who counted and relied on her work--NASA astronauts.

To learn more about Katherine Johnson, see the official NASA biography, a news article on the occasion of her 100th birthday, and the Wiki entry which includes a complete list of honors and awards.

Katherine Johnson is a remarkable person.









Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Further On Out The Solar System Road


Image result for planet xEnvironmental & Science Education
STEM
Solar System
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler

In 2018, Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institute for Science in Washington, D.C., announced the discovery of a new dwarf planet that was 120 times farther from the sun than is Earth. They gave it what they thought was an appropriate nick-name, “Far Out.”

Now he and his colleagues have found a dwarf planet even farther out, 140 times farther from the sun than is Earth. So what did they call it? “Far Far Out.”

Sheppard and his colleagues Chad Trujillo at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and David Tholen at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu are in search of larger game, a hypothesized 9th planet often referred to as Planet 9 or Planet X.  It is thought to be about the size of Neptune and patrols an elliptical orbit that goes around the sun every 15,000 years.

This is the place where the dwarf planets come into play. Their orbits, yet to be determined, would be shaped by this much larger planet. The orbit shapes will take several years to determine. An earlier discovery by Sheppard known as “Goblin” (found around Halloween 2015) has an orbit that suggest influence by Planet 9/X. If the three orbits are clustered, the evidence for the large planet would be greatly increased.

Paul Voosen an Earth and planetary writer for Science has a short article about this announcement.