Monday, February 27, 2017


Mathematics Education
Environmental & Science Education
by Edward Hessler

Almost every day a new headline announces a relationship between some X and some Y as though it was causal.

Maria Konnikova's wrote a short piece in The New Yorker on politics and personality. She reviewed research done by Brad Verhulst, Virginia Commonwealth University and also talked with him about it. This may be one of the reasons that the subheading for her essay reads "most of what you read is malarkey." There may be relationships but they are too often stated much too strongly.

Konnikova mentioned Tyler Vigen's website, Spurious Correlations. This by way of calling your attention to his web site. Here's one:

Letters in Winning Word of Scipps National Spelling Bee correlates with Number of People Killed by Venonmous Spiders.

Vygen is not a maths/stats person but a Harvard law student with a love for numbers and science. About the charts on his website he writes that they "aren't meant to imply causation nor are they meant to create a distrust for research or correlation data. Rather, I hope the project fosters interest in statistics and numerical research."

Konnikova's essay is a lesson on how one trusts research.

And finally, Vygen's stuff is free for the taking. Anything he posts is "released under a Creative Commons Attribution License."

What a deal!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Mildred Dresselhaus

History of Science
Women in Science
by Edward Hessler

Mildred Dresselhaus receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

L. Rafael Reif, president of the Massachusetts of Technology announced the death of a very distinguished MIT faculty member, Mildred Spiewak Dresselhaus, in an e-mail, February 21, 2017.

Professor Dresselhaus was known as the Queen of Carbon for her foundational work which opened the way to later discoveries such as C60 buckyballs (fullerenes), carbon nanotubules, and graphene. I don't do her justice so please read the MIT Press Release below. While at MIT she served as the director of MIT's Center for Materials Science and Engineering. Upon her retirement she was awarded Institute Professor Emerita, the highest distinction the MIT faculty confers.

She was the first woman at MIT to become a full, tenured professor (1968), a solo recipient of the Kavli Prize and the first woman to be awarded the National Medal of Science in Engineering.  In 2014 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014, the highest civilian award in the United States.

Dresselhaus was the author of eight books, some 1700 research articles and supervised more than 70 doctoral students.

About her, Reif wrote, Like dozens of young faculty and hundreds of MIT students over the years, I was lucky to count Millie as my mentor. On this sad day, it is a great comfort to reflect on her example: someone who loved the beauty of scientific discovery and whose bold, rigorous, elegant research is now enabling new solutions to real-world problems. Someone who, personally and professionally, always took the time to do the right thing. Someone devoted to her family, who somehow made the rest of us feel like family, too.

President Reif, closed his letter this way: In sympathy and wonder.

The MIT press release reviews her life—at one time she considered teaching but no less than the Nobel Prize winner, Roslyn Yalow encouraged her to study physics, noting her great promise as a scientist. She did her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago under Enrico Fermi, another Nobel Laureate. She noted that three-quarters of the students in that program failed to complete it.

The MIT press release announcing her death contains links to a long interview for the MIT Oral History Project, an MIT press release on receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom (another MIT faculty member was also a recipient that year, Robert Solow, a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science), an engaging, delightful 60-second General Electric commercial titled "What if Millie Dresselhaus, Female Scientist, was Treated like a Celebrity?, released two weeks before her death, and a press release when she gave the keynote address to the 2015 "Rising Stars in EECC" (Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences). This MIT program is for female graduate students and post-docs who are considering a research career in science.

Friday Poem

Image result for nature

Art and Environment
by Edward Hessler

The poem for Friday, the 24th was written Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.

And here are some quotes from her writings.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Future of Cosmology

Nature of Science
History of Science
by Edward Hessler

Sabine Hossenfelder is a theoretical physicist who writes the blog BackReaction.  The term has a technical meaning, for me a very technical meaning. You may find it otherwise!

In addition she writes a general column on theoretical physics for Forbes and the one I link is worth reading since it is about a debate between scientists and philosophers on why trust a theory.

Professor Hossenfelder is a trusted critical book reviewer, too. In addition, she occasionally posts a song/video she has made since she likes to play with technology and ideas. Occasionally, she posts news about her children who are now seven years old—twin girls.

Everyone has heard of dark matter. The evidence for it is that large scale bunches of matter in the cosmos, galaxies, for example, don't behave in the way that Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts they should.

A recent journal article she discussed prompted some comments on the future of cosmological research.  The paper relies on the power of supercomputers.

IBM Supercomputer [Wikimedia Commons]

Professor Hossenfelder notes that she is a pen-on-paper physicist so the "work has a bittersweet aftertaste. It's a remarkable achievement which wouldn't have been possible without a clever formulation of the problem. But in the end, it's progress fueled by technological power, by bigger and better computers. And maybe that's where the future of our field lies, in finding better ways to feed  problems to supercomputers."

This made me smile. There is, for me, some warmth in the idea pen/pencil and paper, chalkboards and I take some small pleasure in knowing this will continue as cosmologists find "better ways to feed problems to supercomputers." Ah, tradition strikes again!

Here is the link to Dr. Hossenfelder's column on dark matter's hideout.

Galapagos Islands: 6 Tips for Visiting the Islands or How to be a Sustainable Eco-Tourist

Steven Beardsley

Seeing the male Frigate bird on North Seymour Island

I traveled to the Galapagos Islands while I had a vacation from my teaching job here in Ecuador. I was in the Galapagos for about 6 days, and I visited four islands: Santa Cruz, Isabella, San Cristobal, and North Seymour. These are my 6 tips for what to see and do and how to be a sustainable eco-tourist.

1. Do your planning when you get there

Arrow Marinero or Marine Rice; An expensive dish you can bargain
down to $10-15.
This tip might be counterintuitive for planners and people who like to work with travel agencies, but you save a lot of time and money just buying the plane ticket and then planning what you are going to do when you get there. Now, the Galapagos Islands do belong to Ecuador, so the locals speak Spanish, but they also speak plenty of English. I recommend learning some key words in Spanish such as “almuerzo” = “lunch” and “merienda” = “dinner.”

Otherwise, all of the guides are bilingual and will often translate what they say from Spanish to English. That being said, I booked my plane ticket through LATAM directly from Quito. If you are traveling from the United States I also recommend booking through LATAM. There is a $20 transit card fee that you buy at the airport and then another $100 fee to enter the islands. If you have a national visa or are Ecuadorian though, the fee to enter the islands is around $5.

2. Don’t Book a Luxury Cruise

You can see the launch in the very back; these launches are the best
way to get from island to island 
This tip is especially important because cruises that last between 5-8 days are not environmentally sustainable. I have also heard that the large luxury cruises do not benefit the local people, which is an important aspect of sustainable eco-tourism in the Galapagos. The cruises can also cost between $1000-$6000 dollars, and you do not necessarily get the same experience as going from island to island on your own.

For example, I paid $30 to go from Santa Cruz to Isabella and then another $30 from Isabella back to Santa Cruz. The money you pay for the launches does go to the local people as well as the $1 you would pay to take the water taxi to the launches. I will cover where to see all the different animals in a future post, but if you want to see the amazing frigate birds, especially the ones with the red neck pouch, you can book a day cruise that costs about $150. These kinds of cruises are more sustainable because a guide goes with you, the groups are smaller and between 10-20 people, and it benefits the community. Read more about why taking a larger luxury cruise can actually harm the islands:

Can Tourism ever be Sustainable in the Galapagos? 

3. Bargain, Bargain, and Bargain some more

This "almuerzo" includes fish with peanut sauce, fries, rice, and salad.
The first course is typically a soup, then the entree with a drink, and
sometimes a dessert to top things off.
An important tip I cannot stress enough is the importance of bargaining. If you are confident in your Spanish you can often reduce a hostel price from $15 to $10 or even an expensive seafood course from $18 to $15. I believe you can also try bargaining in English, though I mostly did it Spanish. Either way Ecuadorians expect you to bargain, so you should never accept the first price they give. Of course, this is within reason. If you pay about $3-5 in almuerzo that’s a pretty standard price. If you are like me and also enjoy trying out the local cuisine of a new place, bargaining is especially important for high cost seafood dishes.

4. Follow the Park Rules: Don’t feed or touch the animals

A Lang Iguana. One of many unique species you can see on the islands.
The temptation to touch Galapagos animals is strong, but don’t do it. For example, touching the babies of the Sea Lions is bad because our scent can rub off on them, making their mothers reject them. In other words, when you get to the islands don’t be like other tourists who get within a foot of the animals, try to feed them, or touch them. We need to respect that this is their habitat, and that we’re just lucky enough to be visiting them.

5. Spend about 6 days on the Islands

What you can see on the Tintoreras tour:
Galapagos Penguins and Blue-Footed Boobies
Now, you can plan what you want to do ahead of time. If you are interested in snorkeling and swimming with sea lions and sharks you can go on the Tunnels tour which is about $100 or the Tintoreras tours which is about $40. Both activities are on Isabella Island. You can also do plenty of free things such as visit the Charles Darwin Research Station at Santa Cruz or lay down on several of the beaches at Santa Cruz or Isabella. I recommend 6 days especially to get accustomed to boat travel between islands. You can certainly stay longer, but I found that I was pretty tired of the beaches after 6 days. I also recommend 2 days in Isabella, 2 days in Santa Cruz (1 day to do a cruise, and maybe 1-2 days in San Cristóbal.

6. Be a Sustainable Eco-Tourist:

Going with a guide is important;
you still get to take
great photos without
damaging the natural environment
The Galapagos Islands is an incredible place. It has some of the most unique animals on the planet from Darwin’s finches to Penguins and the Galapagos Tortoise. At the same time, The Galapagos is a fragile place that deserves care and respect while visiting. While on the islands I learned a little bit about sustainable ecotourism. Essentially, “sustainable ecotourism” is tourism that “Supports the protection of natural areas by generating economic benefits for host communities, organizations and authorities managing natural areas with conservation purposes”

In other words, tourism can be sustainable if it economically benefits a community, but not all tourism is “eco-tourism.” For the Galapagos Islands sustainable ecotourism is important for the economic well-being of the people and the environment. The Galapagos has a history of exploitation and degradation by pirates and buccaneers that have taken advantage of the Giant Tortoises oil and carapaces for commercial use. Being conscious of the water you use and making sure to turn the light off when you leave your hotel room are all important ways of being a sustainable eco-tourist. Also, be conscious about when and how you choose to visit the islands. Peak holiday seasons aren’t always the best because too many people can be damaging to the natural environment.

I hope these tips are helpful when you plan your own visit to the islands. I personally believe that everyone, natural lovers, naturalists, teachers, and conservationists alike, should visit the Galapagos Islands. But it’s up to you have an experience that benefits you, the local people, and the environment.
Look for future posts where I go into more detail about the animals you can see in the Galapagos and the kinds of activities you can do.

Thanks for reading and Hasta Luego!

Check out these additional resources on Eco-Tourism:

Who are Eco-Tourists? 

Eco-Tourism in the Galapagos

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Reason Why There Was No First Human

Image result for evolution

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

Inspired by Richard Dawkins's The Magic of Reality, PBS produced a short video—an excellent teaching tool—which explains why there was no first human. It is nicely done and includes most of the major species along the way, from way back then to the present.

EVO is a book on the evolution of human generations displayed in a single 30 m long page—folded in a zig-zag pattern that traces human history back through 153 generations. Father, grandfather, great grandfather, great,-great grandfather all the way down to the beginning.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

We Are Water MN - A program that uses stories and science

Water & Watersheds
by Guest Blogger: Britt Gangeness

Britt Gangeness coordinates and develops outreach and education projects at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). She has been working with the Minnesota Humanities Center on the Smithsonian Water/Ways project since 2014 and was thrilled to see the exhibit hit the streets this summer. She has a B.A. in Biology and M.Ed. in Environmental Education.

Minnesota has a very unusual geographic position. We sit atop a triple, continental-scale water divide, a divide that sends water north to the Hudson, east to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic, and south to the Gulf of Mexico. Almost all of our water comes to our state as rain or snow.

This means we are not receiving polluted water from a state with lower environmental standards. But it also means we have a responsibility to keep water clean — for our community and for other states and nations.

Whoa, that's a big responsibility. How are we doing?

Right now, 40% of the water in Minnesota is not meeting standards set for safe for swimming, fishing, or drinking.

Because of investments through the Clean Water Legacy, Minnesota is on track to improve water quality by 6-8% by 2025. Many people believe this is not good enough. In February 2017, Governor Mark Dayton challenged the state of Minnesota with an aspirational goal to improve water by 25% by 2025.

To reach this goal, every community in Minnesota must believe that clean water is important, have an understanding of the local issues they are facing (which vary widely across the state), and have relationships on which to draw to solve these problems. Other social factors that are important to achieving clean water goals are social norms, emotional connections to people and places, self and collective efficacy, and a value of the collection good over personal interests.

In directly addressing these social measures, We Are Water MN works with Minnesota communities to learn about local water issues, rediscover the reasons we each care about clean water, and bring participants into deeper personal and community involvement with water. We:
  1. Educate through a traveling exhibit. The exhibit features statewide and local information about Minnesota's position as the headwaters of three major basins; the sacredness of water to Minnesota's first peoples, the Dakota and Ojibwe; land changes over time; the current stresses on water; steps needed to make progress; and stories about the meaning and use of water by local people.
  2. Engage with host communities that are ready to address important and difficult questions around water. Host communities develop cross-sector partnerships; deepen their knowledge, understanding, and commitment to water issues; create companion exhibitions; develop high profile programs, events, and stewardship projects; and conducted local story-collecting initiatives. 
  3. Connect a cross-sector, cross-disciplinary network of scientists, historians, humanities scholars, storytellers, artists, and other water stakeholders to protect and preserve water in Minnesota.

The power of stories

Through my work on the project, I've had the opportunity to learn about water quality from my MPCA colleagues, listen to interviews of people from the six tour sites, and collect images of the special places they describe. Now, I don't just think of regional water quality trends. I think of people — THESE people.

And I smile, because there are an awful lot of people out there who care about all the little plants, and animals, and flow rates, and smell of the mud, and the places where loons nest (to name a few of the minutia they care about). They treasure the special events in their lives that happened in and around the water.

Stories are a great way to reconnect Minnesotans to the preciousness of our waters: the history; sacredness of Minnesota's first people, the Dakota and Ojibwe; the land changes over time; the current stresses on water — and most importantly, the future story they are part of creating.

Stories can also be used to bridge traditional divides. People don't want to be immediately dismissed because they might have a view that you consider wrong. Stories ask the listener to simply put themselves in the shoes of other people — to understand their problems — especially if we listen to stories that break stereotypes, that present people as individuals rather than as a group, and have conversations or programs that increase contact between isolated groups of people.

How do you use stories and storytelling in your work?

Try it! Listen to these stories and consider your own experiences. 

Becky and Don Waskosky live on the bluff overlooking the Le Sueur River. In 2010, storms dumped 10 inches of rain in the area and sent a torrent of water down the river. It eroded more than half of the bluff that lies between the Waskoskys' house and the river below.

What has happened in your life that inspired you to take action to serve water?

Pat Duncanson's family has been farming in southern Blue Earth County for nearly 100 years. He is very passionate that drainage needs to be part of our southern Minnesota landscape, but that it can't be done like it's been done for the past hundred years.

Demonstration of solutions is important. What are your success stories? 

Learn from three women about why they participate in Nibi (Water) Walks — indigenous-led, extended ceremonies to pray for the water.

Are there cultural or spiritual practices that shape your water ethic?

More about We Are Water MN

We Are Water MN is a touring exhibit and community engagement initiative that will be in Detroit Lakes from February 25 to April 8. It will also be at the Eco Experience (Minnesota State Fair), along with the Water Bar, a free educational experience that serves flights of tap water and generates conversation about water. We Are Water MN is a partnership led by the Minnesota Humanities Center and including the MPCA, DNR, MDH, and Minnesota Historical Society. It is a true collaboration — we develop content together, set goals together, and share networks and resources. We have been working with 6 non-metro Minnesota communities for 2 years and are now in the final stages of the tour.

You can listen and read some more stories collected by this project at Click on "story maps." 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Minnesota March for Science

by Edward Hessler

Just in case you missed it, there will be Minnesota March for Science, similar to the big march in D.C.

This link is the place to go and to keep checking for more information about the local march as it develops.

The march will be held on Earth Day, April 22, 2017.


Earth Science
Environmental & Science Education
by Edward Hessler

My favorite 'splainer of geology, Marcia Bjornerud, Lawrence College has written a short essay on the earth's magnetic field for The New Yorker.

It is a story of reconstructing the magnetic field using archeological materials, mostly fired pottery. Bjornerud notes that "The makers of these old jars, diligently stamping handles with the royal brand, had no idea that they were contributing to a twenty-first century debate about the very heart of the planet."

If you don't already you will understand the importance of the earth's magnetic field, especially a stable one to us, and some idea of how it is studied. It is also a story of how a science works and where curiosity about a phenomenon leads and may lead.

It may be read here.

Magnetism: Wikipedia

The superficial, easily observed, features of magnets are deceptive. Consider what we learn in school.

The late science educator Mary Budd Rowe collected some statements gleaned from first grade boys taking part in a study of magnets. They had all had experiences with magnets. Each had 4 magnets of different shapes, a piece of iron, and a heavy piece of plastic. These were typical statements about concepts that are commonly taught in the primary grades. I abbreviate them in parentheses following the statements.
  • "Look it magnets together." (attraction depending on how they are arranged)
  • "This one and this push apart." (repel depending on arrangement)
  • "When you put it this way, it sticks; but this way it like pushes apart." (attraction, repel, arrangement counts)
  • "If you put the iron and the magnet together, it doesn't stick so hard." (magnets attract iron when brought near iron; the force of the attraction between two magnets is greater than the attraction between a magnet and a piece of iron)
  • "It won't pick this plastic up." (magnets do not attract some objects brought near them)
from Teaching Science as Continuous Inquiry.

However, when you think about what's next or underneath these observations which are good ones to make what really is a magnetic field? These simple magnetic effects suddenly become complicated.

Dr. Bjornerud did her undergraduate work in geology at the UM-TC and her M.S., and Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin. In this short YouTube interview she talks about teaching and the work of some of her students at Lawrence College.

Bjornerud also wrote a lovely, beautiful book on geology titled Reading the Rocks: An Autobiography of the Earth.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Poem

Image result for langston hughes

Art and Environment
by Edward Hessler

Today's poem is by Langston Hughes and it is one you may have read before.

This poem—always powerful and even more timely today—and a short biography of this celebrated poet and writer may be found here.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cajas National Park: A Candidate for an UNESCO Heritage Site

CGEE Student Voice
Environmentalism in Ecuador series
by Steven Beardsley

On the balcony by the Park Center
Cajas National Park: "A Gateway to the Snowy Mountains
This past Sunday I went with several other teachers to Cajas National Park, a park that is just about thirty minutes outside of Cuenca. Cajas became a national park just 20 years ago in 1996. It is an important place for Ecuador and especially Cuenca because it gets all of its clean water from the naturally forming lakes and rivers in the mountains. There are over 12 different routes you can take ranging in difficulty based on whether you want to hike a flatter trail or rock climb some of the major hills. Another past time in Cajas is trout fishing that was mentioned to me by more than several cab drivers. You can also camp out in the park for another $2-$4 dollars and rent camping equipment. Learn more about planning a visit to Cajas National Park.

Meeting *Matteo the Majestic Alpaca

One of the many Alpacas we saw by the Park Center
The five of us took route A, or the least difficult route, through the park. It took us past the first major lake about a quarter the size of Lake Superior in Minnesota, though the park itself is home to over 200 major lakes. Along the way we saw several large alpacas, posing perfectly in the breeze and sun. In the pictures I am bundled up because the weather in Cajas can be unpredictable. Lows are 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit even dropping to below freezing at night. So if you consider camping in this wonderful place, remember to bring plenty of layers.

Biodiversity in Cajas National Park
The "Quinoa" Forest

Another cool thing about Cajas is that it is home to "at least 600 species of vascular plants, 43  mammals, 157 birds (including 24 hummingbirds), 17 amphibians and 4 reptiles". Route A had us traveling through a mix of the moorland and paper trees that are known locally as “quinoas” (although they aren’t the actual grain that you can have with a salad), and several lagoons and marshland. In Cajas you can see Condors (we didn’t see one sadly D: ), wild horses, cows, alpacas, Andean parrots, hummingbirds, and many other animals.

Archaeological & Scientific Research at Cajas National Park

We were over 12,000 ft. above sea level! 
Cajas has also been the source of many scientific and archaeological investigations. Incan ruins can be found at various sections of the park such as near the Laguna Toreadora and Laguna Atugyacu. Next time I hope to continue exploring the park and maybe visit some ruins as many of the routes range from 1-2 hours to 2 full days. Regarding scientific research, the University of Cuenca has taken students out to do field studies of the water and biodiversity. We saw a meteorological site dedicated to monitoring the changing weather in Cajas. In the morning it can be warm and very sunny only to switch to rain and even sleet in the afternoon and evening.
Part of the Route A path we took; It was a beautiful day

Luckily, we had a very beautiful and warm evening. I definitely want to visit this ecological paradise again and see more of the Incan ruins and meet the various wildlife. You can learn more about Cajas National Park through the links in the post. This month and December I hope to travel to other ecological places in Ecuador such as the Banos in Cuenca, the Amazon rainforest, and some islands in the Galapagos Islands.

Hasta Luego-Until then.

Me and the other CEDEI Teachers at Cajas National Park

*We didn't know if they named the Alpacas, but I decided to call this one "Matteo."

*More great pictures of the park below

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

About that Jump to Light Speed

Environmental & Science Education
by Edward Hessler

I have a small poster just to my right that reads:

3 x 10^8 m.p.s.
for the Universe 

Sounds fast. Is fast. It is the speed limit.

However, when this speed is put in another context you gain a new appreciation of  the very large scale of space.

[Wikimedia Commons]

Riding Light is a film that simulates the journey of a photon taking a trip from the Sun to just a tetch past Jupiter. 

There are two versions, one long (45 minutes). It may make you itchy for the speedy photon to get movin'. Worth watching some of it though. It may help you gain some purchase on the sheer dimensions of space. The short version is linked in the text introducing the film. You can accompany the photon taking the same trip in three minutes. 

This film brings a new and different meaning to Living on Tulsa Time.

Happy trails!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day-Part II

Image result for dragonfly

Art and Environment
by Edward Hessler

Images of natural Valentine hearts: Here and here.

One reminded me of an image of two dragonflies mating.

Hearts almost everywhere.

¡Cuenca, Cuenca!: 5 things I've learned about Ecuador

CGEE Student Voice
Environmentalism in Ecuador series
by Steven Beardsley

The City of Cuenca
By Marc Figueras (Oersted) (Own work) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
I've been in Cuenca for the past 5 days or so after taking a plane from Minneapolis at 5:00 in the morning, enduring an 8 hour layover in Miami, and then taking my final plane from Miami to Quito. When I arrived in Quito, the taxi driver took me to Color House Petite, my hostel in Quito. I should preface that this part of the journey had been planned while the rest of it had changed a month ago. I had booked a round trip ticket, but Cuenca's airport decided to close before September which meant my only options were to take a van or a bus from either Quito or Guayaquil to Cuenca. I opted for a bus and what follows are my 5 takeaways from that incredible journey and first impressions about the people and culture of Ecuador.

1. ¡Cuenca, Cuenca!

The kitchen I share with my roommate in Cuenca
The first thing I noticed while getting on the bus was a door that separated the bus occupants from the two drivers. Yes, the bus had 2 drivers because they would switch driving while the other would collect change and yell out the door for people who wanted to get on throughout the journey. It was also common for vendors to get on the bus with snacks that cost between 50 cents to 1 dollar. I thought that was convenient since the bus only stopped once during the entire 9 hour trip. Also, unlike the U.S. where a bus will continue to a place with empty seats, buses will continually pick up and drop off travelers all along the trip. I found this particularly amusing especially when 30 people had bought their bus tickets at the terminal when only 13 people (including myself) had actually showed up. To get peoples' attention the other bus driver will also shout out the door "¡Cuenca, Cuenca!" if anyone was heading to the city.

2. Ecuadorian people are very nice
Front view of the "Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción"
or Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception,
also known as the New Cathedral of Cuenca
Something I heard a lot about Latin America is that the people there are typically very warm and nice. I have lived in Murcia, Spain for 6 months and had heard the same about Spaniards, but the help I got from Ecuadorians while traveling alone was astounding. For instance, my taxi driver to the Quito bus terminal accompanied me all the way to my bus, helping me buy a ticket and making sure I got there safely. When I was on the bus from Quito to Cuenca I met a mother, her child, and a grandmother who talked to me. It turned out that they were a family of teachers, and they actually drove me all the way to my flat once I arrived at the Cuenca bus terminal.

3. Showers in Ecuador are a lot colder

On a bridge in front of el Río Tomebamba:
one of the four rivers of Cuenca
I noticed this in my hostel at Quito but especially in Cuenca where the bathroom in my flat basically consisted of a shower head that looked like a large fire alarm with no curtain or bathtub (my roommate got the better bathroom with an actual bathtub). I was surprised to find out that lower pressure allows for hotter water, but generally Ecuadorians take shorter showers. Here is an interesting article about how cold water is good for you and the benefit of taking shorter showers in general: 7 reasons why taking Cold Showers are good for you.

Liquid yogurt in a bag; it goes well with granola or cereal
4. Most things come in Bags
From mustard to tomato sauce to yogurt, practically everything comes in a bag. Yes, that includes milk which is similar to Canada in that respect. I also noticed that because everything comes in plastic bags the trash is usually sorted into black bags as any kind of trash including compostable material and blue bags including anything that can be recyclable. I find this interesting since people usually just leave their bags outside their apartments or homes to be collected during the week.

5. Sustainability in Cuenca?

So far I've noticed quite a few things such as the lack of packaging and cardboard to how Cuenca sorts their trash. Unlike Spain with its different colored receptacles, it seems that Cuenca only separate trash and general recyclables as I mentioned before. I did notice that the toilets operate on using less water for liquids and more water for solids. At the same time, a considerable issue I've noticed about Cuenca is how the narrow streets create a lot of traffic with buses and cars that spew noxious fumes. It's so bothersome that people who sell things on the street actually cover their faces with scarves or even wear masks. I hope to learn more about sustainability in Cuenca and even visit some of the nearby national parks.

A view of Cuenca and the surrounding Mountains on top of CEDEI where I will be teaching

That being said, the water here is much safer then other parts of Ecuador (like Quito and Guayaquil) since we live about 8,000 feet about sea level and get our water from the Mountains. If you want to learn more about Cuenca, Ecuador you can check out this link: Cuenca, Ecuador.

Otherwise, I hope to continue blogging about the things I'm learning both from living and teaching here to meeting people and learning more about the culture. I plan to blog at least once a month depending on my schedule. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my next post.

¡Hasta Luego!-Until then!

Happy Valentine's Day!

by Edward Hessler

This poet, ah this wonderful poet, is one whose work makes me feel good and think and celebrate being human. The poem carefully notices the plain, simple wonderfulness of first love with all its innocence and thrill (which ain't gone)!

These are some Valentines which are probably a good idea not to send!  They can be found by clicking on the  8th button over from the left.

These may be some Valentines you might want to send—science themed (astronomy—the science of looking up and out).

Noah's 4th grade project features a reading and production of a Jack Prelutsky poem, I Made My Dog a Valentine. Slo-Mo with Legos; shot with a GoPro3.

h/t Kate Rosok for the NASA Valentines link.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Drawings and Stories by Charles Darwin's Children

History of Science
Biological Evolution
Environmental and Science Education
by Ed Hessler (EvoEd)

Happy Darwin Day to one and all.

You may know that Darwin tore books and manuscripts apart while he was using them. He filed sections of manuscripts and books in active folders. And then? Out!

His children made use of the backs of open pages. I've written about these before but today I'm too lazy to find them. I want you to see the drawings before day's end!

Origin of the Species [Flickr]

Most of the original ms. of the Origin is missing (only 45 pp. of the ~ 600 pp. of the original are extant) and no doubt many of the drawings and stories made by his children as well.

The AMNH has a collection of the drawings and stories made by his children. The introductory page is replete with data on existing pages which provides a glimpse of how ruthless Darwin was in reusing these pages.

The drawings are very nice and I'm really pleased we have a few to view.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Comforting Preemies

Image result for octopus

by Edward Hessler

University of Minnesota-Morris biologist, PZ Myers features a Friday Cephalopod on his widely read blog, Pharnygula. I love this feature (and I also like and admire the blog).

I'm not going to imitate this but I offer an alternative, an interesting one behaviorally. Preemies appear to benefit with a crocheted octopus to snuggle with.

I don't think this would surprise him and hope he'd be pleased.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Poem

Art and Environment
by Edward Hessler

Frederick Douglass [Wikimedia Commons]

Today's poem is by Robert Hayden. It is a poem about Frederick Douglass.

Hayden is the author of an evocative poem—one filled with love. And because we are still in meteorological winter I must add it.

I remember my father doing the same thing to warm a chilled and often cold house for the rest of us. I can't resist linking it.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Darwin Day

Biological Evolution
History of Science
by Edward Hessler (Evolution Ed)

The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree...As buds dive rise by growth to fresh buds, and these if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications. —Charles Darwin, 1859

Darwin Day will be celebrated Sunday, February 12. Darwin and Abraham Lincoln share this birthdate in 1809.

Make a cake; light some candles!

Charles Darwin [Wikipedia]

The Center for Inquiry has an excellent list of resources worth browsing.

Sites I use fairly frequently on that list include the National Center for Science Education (evolution and climate change), Darwin Online, and the University of California-Berkeley's Understanding Evolution (an extraordinary resource on evolutionary biology for teachers, no for anyone wanting to understand major ideas in evolution). Less frequently I visit the Tree of Life sites (for clarifications of what I think I know as well as to delight in life's diversity).

Darwin Day is also an international event and for information about it see here.

If you've never read Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, here are two recommendations. The original is still a great read...

A few years ago one of our best science writers, David Quammen wrote an illustrated On the Origin of Species. You can take a peek inside. The book relies on the first edition (1859) for text but supplements it with readings from The Voyage of the Beagle and Darwin's Autobiography. It is profusely illustrated with period illustrations and modern photos of species that Darwin refers to.

Biologist James T. Costa bases The Annotated Origin on Darwin's 1859 masterpiece. It is profusely annotated by an working biologist and draws on long experience with Darwin's ideas in the field, laboratory and classroom.  It is filled with insights and perspectives that make this book all the more accessible.

And to see Darwin's original sketch of The Tree of Life I've chosen this one from the Wellcome Trust.

Happy birthday, Charles and thanks for this deep opening into how nature works. What a gift to us.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Actual Living Scientists

Image result for scientist

Environmental & Science Education
History of Science
by Edward Hessler

If you're a tweeter (I'm not as must be obvious to one and all), Huffington Post reported about a new hashtag that may be of interest.

Scientists (#actuallivingscientist) describe what they do and it is already showing the diversity of research interests as well as the diversity of scientists themselves.

Anti-science talk in general and now specifically from President Trump is fairly common. Wildlife ecologist David Steen noted that he was being given a "hard time about how my work wasn't worth doing," so in the interest of science communication, he introduced himself on Twitter, including images. He is a herps (snakes) guy.

One thing led to another scientist doing the same thing and another and another....

I think it is a great idea, one that I hope will continue.

Science is done by real people, not too different from the rest of us except for their interest in understanding the natural world and how it works.

By the way what do you think about Steen's claim that most Americans can't name a living scientist? If asked about dead scientist who do you think might be named?

Erin Schumaker reported the story.

Monday, February 6, 2017

In Search of a Sweet(er) Deal

[Wikimedia Commons]
Biological Evolution
by Edward Hessler

Deep Look, a co-production of KQED and PBS Digital Studies, examines a case of competition and double dealing between Inga trees and big-headed ants (note the pincers), all in three minutes.

Who can ya' trust?!

Friday, February 3, 2017

New Yorker Cover, February 13 and 20, 2017

Art and Environment
by Edward Hessler

I have to be careful with my tendency to clip and save. I've gotten much better with the covers of The New Yorker almost all of which I find to be "keepers." I'm not so good with articles and essays, though.

A move from CGEE's old quarters (an old, drafty, tilted, sometimes leaky house) to what was the book store at Hamline where we now live in cubicles forced me to recycle a lot of paper. I made some mistakes but life goes on.
New Yorker, 2017

Next week's cover of The New Yorker is one I'll keep once I receive the issue although I hope it doesn't arrive too soon since I'm trying to read the current issue. The new cover touches heart, soul and mind.  Here, art is worth more than those proverbial thousand words which is not always the case.

The cover for February 13 and 20, 2017 is an annual anniversary issue (92 years old) and traditionally the cover features a "version of Rea Irvin's classic image of the monocled dandy Eustace Tilley."

Flame Out was painted by John W. Tomac.

In addition there is a small gallery of past Eustace Tilley covers.

Friday Poem

Image result for nature

Art and Environment
Environmental & Science Education
by Edward Hessler

The poem for this Friday is by P. K. Page (Patricia Kathleen Page) about whom there is more information here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Happy Groundhog Day!

Environmental & Science Education
by Edward Hessler

Punxsutawney Phil [Flickr]

The news this morning from Gobbler's Knob was that Punxsutawney Phil was hard to wake, grouchy and reluctant to stick his nose from his house. His mood would seem natural since he had been awakened earlier to be transferred to this temporary home.

When Phil was dragged out—his handler wearing heavy gloves—he saw his shadow. Well it was declared he did, a decision that is made before the event by the way. Phil's not sayin' but it was a cloudy day.  Officials are too much with us.

I don't know whether an instant replay was demanded by his competitors or not (Buckeye Chuck - Ohio, Jimmy the Groundhog - Wisconsin, Staten Island Chuck - Staten Island, New York, Shubenacadie Sam - Nova Scotia, Gen. Beauregard Lee,- Georgia).

Staten Island Chuck and Shubenacadie Sam predicted and early spring and there may be others, too. Staten Island Chuck has the best percentage of all for these predictions: ~80 percent. I think he doesn't use a shadow but chooses a labeled bowl with food in it.

But hey, it is all about branding and Phil's handlers have done that well.

So, six weeks more of winter. Oh, hum. Nothing new here! The middle of March is about six weeks away and that month ranks third for snow.

NOAA's National Center for Environmental Information has an entertaining and useful infographic on Phil's predictions since 1887.  Phil and his many descendants have been right ~ 50 percent of the time.

Here are 24 facts you didn't know—maybe you did, I didn't—about Bill Murray's film, Goundhog Day.

The Groundhog is not about this day but is a powerful poem. It is about a man who comes to understand the bargain we make with the cosmos: our eventual death and decay.  The author, Richard Eberhart, grew up in Austin, Minnesota. He received many recognitions and awards. He also lived a very long life: 101 years.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

March for Science

Image result for march for science

Environmental & Science Education
by Edward Hessler

Just off the wire.

The March for Science is on after some tentative steps.

At the outset we read that: The March for Science is a celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community.

Few details but please read the mission statement which is about science... using empirical scientific evidence when making decisions.

The Meter Stick

Image result for meter stick

History of Science
Environmental and Science Education
Mathematics Education
by Edward Hessler

You may remember meter sticks from school science but not thought much about how they came to be.

The creation of the meter/metre, now a worldwide unit of measure is told in Ken Adler's dazzling history of science, The Measure of All Things.

The meter emerged from the French Revolution. The idea to establish a standard meter seemed simple and straightforward. There is a rule of thumb here, isn't there? Whatever seems simple often isn't.

Two astronomers departed from Paris in opposite directions to measure a set distance of a meridian arc. One went south to Barcelona (Pierre Mechain); the other went North to Dunkirk (Jean-Baptiste Delambre). They were to work towards each other, reunite, and make their calculations. It was to take a year. It took seven.

Robert McFarlane reviews Adler's book in The Observer. And for more about Ken Adler see this page.

Kei Miller turns his graceful poetic eye on this feat in his poem "Establishing the Metre."

Like tailors who must know their clients clients' girths
two men set out to find the sprawling measure of the earth.
They walked the curve from Rodez to Barcelona,
and Barcelona to Dunkirk. Such a pilgrimage!
They did not call it inches, miles or chains —
this distance which as yet had no clear name.
Between France and Spain they dared to stretch
uncalibrated measuring tapes. And foot
by weary foot, they found a rhythm
the measure that exists in everything.

The poem is from Kei Miller, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion (Carcanet Press Limited, Manchester Great Britain 2014). For this collection of poems, he was awarded theForward Prize for 2014. Mr. Miller teaches at Royal Holloway College, University of London.