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Tags  →  education

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles... all-girl team from a low-income area teaches themselves engineering, choosing a one-year project to help homeless people (and reminding us that Trump is not America).

Meanwhile, in rural India...

...some rather wonderful things are happening.

This is one of the five Global Jet Watch observatories (conducting seriously advanced research by Oxford University into black holes), distributed around the world so that one is always in darkness.

The research has an educational spin-off. The India observatory (like most of them) is situated in the grounds of a boarding school. In this case the school was founded by the Indian Government in order to give bright children of rural families (the majority of whom are first-generation literates) a formal education. Before bedtime, the children can operate the telescope for themselves; after bedtime, the research programme takes over operation from Oxford by remote control.

Since both the research and the education programme need a clean and reliable electricity supply, a generous donor funded Operation Solar Farm, a low-tech combination of solar panels and energy storage, plus a conversion of the observatory to run on noise-free DC electricity.

And so “these children... learn something rather amazing: how energy gathered from our nearest star by day is available each night to help them explore distant stars across our galaxy.”

Many thanks to Oxford Physics Science News for the source article.

It's wonderful how kids' clubs are introducing children less than 3 years old to art, in a practical and fun way, using great masters as inspiration.

This is an example from a place that my grandchild goes to. The first two were used in the session Paul Klee - Taking a Line for a Walk:

"A Young Lady's Adventure" by Paul Klee

"Castle and Sun " by Paul Klee

The next two come from the session Kandinsky - All About Colour:

"Concentric Circles" by Wassily (Vasili) Kandinsky

A masterpiece by very young children!

Click any image to visit the club activities page.

If you like this...

["Rainbow Fish", from Mrs. Bearden's Art Room at Euharlee Elementary, Georgia]

Science, Religion and Quantum Mechanics

The image above is mine - feel free to share...

It turns out that all the technology that is based on transistors - computers, mobile phones, the Internet, you name it - depends on the strange reality of quantum physics, as does almost everything that we see (and don't see) around us.

I recently read, or rather am having the great pleasure of working through in several passes, most of The Quantum Universe: Everything that Can Happen Does Happen, a book written by Professors Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. (I say “most of” because the the chapters in the book lead you up to a real worked example in the Appendix, a seriously high mountain which I have yet to attempt!)

In 1927 J.B.S. Haldane famously wrote: “I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”

The Universe is truly a queer and wonderful place, and this book clearly explains some of its most queer and wonderful mechanisms. The method of explanation, using familiar clock faces and waves, doesn't eliminate the occasionally frightening mathematics, but conveys brilliantly what is really going on.

(Anyone thinking "I can't do maths", by the way, has never had teachers like these (or Salman Khan, see bottom of this post). I wish they had taught me when I first attempted to learn this stuff!)

Equally fascinating is the authors' explanation of how science reached its current understanding of the theory that predicts so accurately how the Universe behaves, from the chemistry of life (and table salt) to why (since atoms are mostly empty space) we don't fall through the floor, to the life-cycle of stars.

Unusually in a science book, the authors are not afraid to explain the limitations of science, either: scientific knowledge isn't perfect and fixed, but always growing, and here is a great description of how science helps knowledge to grow.

You can read a really good review of the book here. Click the images for more about the authors.

I find it sad that in today's world some religions still cannot accept science, but must imagine an alternative reality (with a bogus science that doesn't constantly test itself critically against evidence, as real science does) that doesn't conflict with their beliefs.

It is also ironic, as well as sad, that people following these religions promote their messages (and do much else) using technology that depends on the science that they don't believe in.

Creationists (or whatever they call themselves) have a perfect right to believe in whatever they want. However I find it horrifying to read about persistent attempts to have Creationism taught in classrooms, and teachers being intimidated for teaching real science.

Disrespect for science is no new thing, and not confined to reality-denying religions. The “mad scientist”, for example, has always been a popular feature of movies and TV shows (even in The Muppets, one of my all-time favourites!). Scientists have not always performed well, and have not always found it easy to communicate clearly with the non-scientific public (a hard but essential job when issues like climate change and health are at stake).

A while back, the UK woke up to the fact that its future prosperity depended on reversing this trend, and many popular science programmes (among other things) have resulted - from the BBC's Bang Goes The Theory to some extraordinarily illuminating programmes featuring Brian Cox.

J.B.S. Haldane, should he be observing from somewhere what is happening in physics today, might not change his suspicion (the inner workings of gravity, for instance, still have much to reveal to science) - but I am sure that he would be “watching developments with great interest”.

If you like this...

[More thoughts on Science and Religion]
[Is our weather getting worse? (major Channel 4 documentary)]
[Some wonders from NASA]
[Some thoughts on Science and Politics]
[One of the greatest FREE learning and teaching resources on the Internet: The Khan Academy]

Some great advice on clear writing by by Frank L. Visco (click the image for more!)

Many children must have sat through lessons with a teacher who knew their stuff but couldn't teach, or (even worse) with a poor teacher with no real knowledge of their subject. Here is someone very different...

Recently Bill Gates nominated Salman Khan as one of Time Magazine's The 100 Most Influential People in the World, writing:

"Like a lot of great innovators, Salman Khan didn't set out to change the world. He was just trying to help his teenage cousin with her algebra from across the country. But from a closet turned office in his Silicon Valley apartment, Sal, 35, has produced an amazing library of online lectures on math, science and a host of other subjects. In the process, he has turned the classroom — and the world of education — on its head.

"The aspiration of is to give every kid a chance at a free, world-class education. The site has over 3,000 short lessons that allow kids to learn at their own pace. Practice exercises send students back to the pertinent video when they're having trouble. And there's a detailed dashboard for teachers who use Khan Academy in their classrooms.

"Early pilot programs in California classrooms show terrific promise. I've used Khan Academy with my kids, and I'm amazed at the breadth of Sal's subject expertise and his ability to make complicated topics understandable."

It's not just kids that will appreciate the free video lessons of this wonderful teacher. I'm not bad at maths, but I am still enjoying going back and watching his way of putting over topics that have faded from my memory over the years - even some very basic ones.

Whether you're interested in maths, science, finance & economics or humanities (or if your kids are interested or need to be), do check this out. It has to be one of the greatest educational resources in the world - and it doesn't cost a bean.