Archive for July, 2007

Homeschoolers Rejoice!

July 31, 2007

We just found two goldmines! The entire lecture series – 42 lectures for UC Berkeley’s Introductory Biology class online! ‘UC Berkeley Introduction to Biology – Bio 1A General Biology’ just got added to our new listings! Homeschoolers rejoice!

Also found a wonderful repository for some of Professor Julius Sumner Miller’s ‘Why is it so?’ series from Australian Broadcasting. He has prehensile eyebrows and a great dynamic with the kids on his show and his assistant. 12 episodes in the series.

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QUEST Videos from KQED – Nice Teaching Materials

July 23, 2007

Lauren Sommer, of KQED in California, has submitted some terrific links from their QUEST broadcast that are in the new section of Scitalks. They’re beautifully presented and have terrific teaching materials on the page that teachers and homeschoolers can download.

Nanotechnology Takes Off
Fatal Attraction: Birds and Wind Turbines
Out of the Park: The Physics of Baseball
Forensic Identification

E. O. Wilson Festival!

July 21, 2007

If I had a wish, it would be that more people would use their ‘retirement’ time to create what they think the world needs. Wisdom and experience have enormous value. When someone like E. O. Wilson uses his along with insight and vision, the world gets The Encyclopedia of Life. Great projects don’t need to be so grand and sweeping. One which I find enchanting is John Galinato’s Build-It-Yourself, a wonderful series of workshops to teach kids mechanics and robotics in a hugely creative fashion. You can catch some videos of the kids’ creations here.

Much has been written about scientific contributions and age – that scientists do their best work in their twenties. Also, recently there have been several articles stating that the causes of this might well be external, differs from discipline to discipline, is affected by gender, risk tolerance, etc..

I hope and anticipate that as the boomers go into ‘retirement’ their post-career years will be looked at as having the freedom that comes with financial independence – the freedom to do what they think is right, and that their achievements will add another spike to the curve of contributions by age range – because they’ll be working on their own projects with passion and will be doing what they damn well please, free of other responsibilities, using the insight and wisdom they’ve picked up over their years on this planet.

This week, we have added several videos by E. O. Wilson. Our featured video this week is James D. Watson and E. O. Wilson together on Charlie Rose for the entire program. They’re delightful.

E. O. Wilson claims that there are two laws of biology:

“The way I see it is that modern biology now has pretty well established two laws…basic well-established principles for which there is no known exception. The first is that all organic process – all living process – are ultimately obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry. … The second law is that all living systems and process evolve by natural selection. That, in a nutshell, is modern biology. I think if we were to teach biology from the top down, starting with those two laws, and show what the evidence is and what is created, we would have a lot less problems with controversy over biology. ”

In the video Reflections on a Life in Science, Wilson talks about scientists’ role in society:

“The scientist is more of a storyteller and a mythmaker than I think most scientists realize, or at least care to admit. I’ve always been taken by the formula suggested by the filmmaker Howard Hawks, who said, ‘If you’re a storyteller, find a good story, and tell it’. The scientist is more of a storyteller looking for a story to tell – not of fiction – but certainly a product of the imagination, passed through the crucible of testing in the real world.”

Wilson’s acceptance of the TED prize to Help Build the Encyclopedia of Life is just fascinating. I’m completely on board with his dream, but considering what I do, its not that surprising.

Knowledge, the Meaning of Life and Our Place in the Cosmos

July 9, 2007

A few years ago, I was webmaster for a group of scientists at the Boston University Hearing Research Center. While building the site for Professor Steve Colburn, the director of the center, I had an epiphany. I was building the page of his substantial list of publications and caught a glimpse of something fantastic – a life of meaning. Scrolling though the years of his work, I could see how his work built on previous work. I could see his focus evolving, and how valuable the processes of science are to us in terms of managing contributed knowledge and effort so it isn’t wasted. Peer review, communities, universities, publications are all there to capture and manage these efforts. I stared at his list for a long time. 

Go ahead, check out his publications list. He’s amazing. (Super nice guy, too.) Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page then crawl upward through the years. What a wonderful mark he’s leaving on the world!

Concerning knowledge and its classification and retrieval, is this video on ‘Making Digital Durable’ by one of my heroes, Clay Shirky. There’s an unfortunate audio dropout for a minute about a third of the way through (example of non-durable data) but it picks up shortly afterward. It’s definitely worth seeing and it deals with something we’re thinking about right now here at SciTalks. How to create a classification system that embodies all of the science and all of future science so that we can provide a meaningful way for people to find what they want without ontological vertigo. Shirky’s a fun thinker; I hope you enjoy his talk as much as I do. 

We’ll be implementing tagging on SciTalks and we’ll welcome any suggestions for how to implement it to create the most functional system possible. You’ll be able to navigate via tag cloud. Please have a look at Shirky’s video. If you get any ideas on how to weight tags and create communities of practice, or whether it’s relevant to what we’re doing, I’d love to hear about it.  

In our featured video, renowned physicist David Deutsch talks about the prerequisites for the ‘open ended creation of knowledge’ and our place in the cosmos. His premise is that knowledge plays a big part of what makes us special. He’s wonderful.