Linky Friday: From Which Other Things STEM

I tell students that I believe STEM majors have the most exciting opportunities than any other majors in college. – Emily Calandrelli, BS Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering West Virginia University, MS Aeronautics and Astronautics MIT, MS Technology and Policy MIT

The Offspring. Frontman Dexter Holland, PhD in Molecular Biology, University of Southern California


[Sc1] It could be right out of Jurassic Park: “A mid-Cretaceous embryonic-to-neonate snake in amber from Myanmar“, or for the rest of us the world’s oldest snake embryo found cased in amber.

[Sc2] Fake news also applies to science headlines sometimes. Not an article, but a good back and forth here on discerning “a spitball in a giant spitball fight in this community of scientists”

[Sc3] The U.S. government is investing $3-billion-a-year in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. So how did an Intel executive with no federal or known STEM advocacy experience land the lead role? Fascinating write up on Gabriela González’s path from immigrant to running point for the NSF effort to get young girls and women interested in science fields.

[Sc4] When a scientist runs for public office, it’s the intangibles and outside factors that often decide the race as opposed to the evidence-based positions or expertise in a field.

[Sc5] The University of North Carolina is one of the finer academic institutions around, so when one of UNC’s highest profile and highest paid employees, held a press conference in which he delved into science, CTE and effects on the brain, and some sociology about how these things might affect our country, people noticed. Problem is Larry Fedora is the head football coach, and probably should have stuck to recruiting and game plans.

[Sc6] One thing science may never fully understand is the human brain. For example, turns our that first memory you have? It probably isn’t yours.

[Sc7] How an early version of Photoshop and coloring the grainy, grey-scaled images from the Hubble space telescope revolutionized how we see the universe.

[Sc8] Speaking of space, while some are still waiting for the Sweet Meteor of Death to come, how about a double asteroid, whose two parts are orbiting each other as they careen through space.

Queen. Guitarist Brian May, PhD in Astrophysics, Imperial College London


[Te1] The enemy of my enemy is my friend, or at least Microsoft and Walmart are finding common cause in the cloud to compete with Amazon.

[Te2] Asia-Pacific factories are leading the way in high-tech, digital technology in production and manufacturing.

[Te3] How’s this for counter-intuitive: tech reporters who limit their own tech usage.

[Te4] China is leading the world in surveillance technology, facial recognition, and related fields, but don’t ever ask the question “can this be used for good?” when dealing with a totalitarian regime, since that answer will always be a resounding “no”.

[Te5] Weather forecasting is mocked on the news, but to airlines it can be make or break for thin margins. JetBlue is investing heavily in new weather forecasting tech to address that very issue.

[Te6] This is sure to stir debate: studies are starting to come out that tech usage is affecting ADHD-type symptoms.

Boston. Guitarist Tom Scholz BS, MS in Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


[En1] There is no such thing as perfect, but modern tech and precision engineering sure are making a run at it.

[En2] “Is a race car driver an athlete?” is an old debate, but according to world champion Jenson Button, it was a lack of understanding the engineering and tech that went into his car that held him back initially. “It almost ended my career being bad at engineering and not having any understanding of a racing car.”

[En3] This is just one example of local reporting on it, but robotics camps are everywhere these days for students, and many are hoping they do for engineering and sciences what little league does for future pro players.

[En4] Speaking of kids, Girls Scouts is now doing badges in robotics, engineering, space sciences, and other associated fields.

[En5] If you are going to jump out of plane from nearly 5 miles up without a parachute, you better have your engineering of the stunt down tight. Here’s the story of Luke Aikins not dying thanks to “a rather nervous civil engineer, John Cruikshank, who helped design the audacious stunt”.

[En6] People think that the long-promised drone delivery systems will have a lot of high tech involved, turns out the biggest engineering challenge isn’t the drone but the hook.

Dan Snaith, stage name Caribou, PhD in Mathmatics, Imperial College London


[Ma1] Who needs a formula when you can just knit two throw pillows and compare? This Carthage College class is teaching math through knitting.

[Ma2] Understanding Math vs Understanding Math

[Ma3] Fighting a fear of math, and how to get over it. I can relate: “I studied in an education system that said science and math are the important factors … and each student was analyzed and measured by their math and science grades.”

[Ma4] This is fun. Trust your math project by making a cardboard boat. With you in it.

[Ma5] For people who have a hard time learning math, making it hands-on might be the ticket to success.

[Ma6] We kind of figured this, but someone actually did the research on it; coffee, or at least in this case the scent of coffee, appears to boost the ability to do math.

[Ma7] There are many stories like this on, from many different school districts, of not nearly enough math teachers to go around.

Physics and Jazz:


Queen Guitarist Dr. Brian May (PhD Astrophysics) touring the ESO’s Paranal Observatory

Featured photo: On 28 and 29 September 2015, ESO’s Paranal Observatory welcomed a very special visitor — British rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and astrophysicist, Brian May. Famed for being the lead guitarist of the legendary rock band Queen — May also has a passion for astronomy. This picture shows Brian May in one of the domes of the ESO Very Large Telescope.

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Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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16 thoughts on “Linky Friday: From Which Other Things STEM

  1. Sc7: Telescope-related, the new adaptive optics package for the Europeans’ Very Large Telescope allows it to acquire images comparable to the Hubble’s images in sharpness. Similar adaptive optics for their new Extremely Large Telescope (first mirror segment successfully cast earlier this year) should allow for direct imaging of large extra-solar planets. NASA recently announced that their Webb space telescope won’t launch before 2021, and that they’ll need Congress to appropriate more money for them to finish it.

    Ma7: Anecdata, but on the difficulty of programs that attempt to bring in non-educators to teach math… A friend of mine who is a quite good applied mathematician signed on to teach math at the charter* high school her children attended. She was led to believe by the administrators that she would be teaching at the top end of the curriculum, encouraged to bring in colleagues who could talk about how they used math in their careers, etc. Once she was hired, the head of the math group said she would be treated like the rest of the math group, and as junior instructor, would get the Algebra I and II classes of kids who were taking it only to meet the state requirement and had no interest whatsoever beyond passing with a minimal grade. Pre-calc, calc, and statistics classes were taught only by the instructors with the most years. My friend lasted a semester.

    * In Colorado, “charter school” is the term for a stand-alone school funded by the local district with tax dollars. They are exempt from a large number of the restrictions on who can be a teacher (certification in particular). They are public schools in that they get the tax dollars, can’t charge tuition in addition to that, have to do the same standardized tests, and can’t turn kids away except for some very particular reasons.

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    • That’s what I remember the math teachers saying 20 years ago as well. There’s no shortage of math teachers who want to teach stats and calculus. A classroom full of motivated students learning something that’s really new to them is a lot of fun. And there are relatively few sections of calculus and stats to teach at any given school.

      They need people who are qualified to each algebra II, which is advanced enough that most adults have forgotten it so it requires a math specialist, but is also low-end enough that there are a bunch of sections to teach and they’re full of students who don’t want to be there. It’s everybody’s least favorite class–students and teachers.

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      • I never did pass Alegbra 2 so I’ll raise my hand there, took 1, stats and geometry which the later two I really liked. I can see why a teacher that loves and has a passion for math would get weary of banging their head against the wall of kids that dont want to learn it. I was one of those kids and was a pain for my teachers.

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        • I find people who struggle with Algebra 2 and Calc (I have taken calc twice in my life and also read books purporting to teach calculus to adults and I still don’t have more than a superficial understanding) do well in stats.

          I like stats. In its simpler forms it’s very practical, though I admit I look at some of the newer Bayesian stuff and go “I really probably should be teaching THAT,” but again, Bayes edges into the calculus-like realm for me.

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      • True, but it does smell like bait-and-switch to imply that you’ll get to teach upper-division classes to motivated folks, and then get handed classes full of people who are only there because they HAVE to be there.

        I mean, “Stand and Deliver” is a good movie, but it’s just a movie.

        I’ve taught (biology) to upper-division students (specialized classes), to intro-level majors, to intro-level “I only am here because I have to have a science hour to graduate,” and to people from a different major with very different expectations.

        An unmotivated class can kill your enthusiasm for teaching like nothing else. I did my best in those classes but, ngl, there are a lot of days I went home and cried when I was teaching non-majors Gen Bio. And that didn’t even count the day when the woman got all up in my face (I mean, LITERALLY) screaming at me that I had to be an atheist because I was teaching evolution.

        My department, because it’s small, everyone has to cycle through the undesirable classes. There’s no one who gets a pass because they’re a superstar or have lots of grants or anything. It’s more fair, I think, than sticking only the most-junior people with it. (Some people like and ask for the non-majors classes. I dunno, I guess it’s just not in my skill set and my personality seems better suited to incoming majors who want to learn but are scared to death of all the terminology)

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        • Not only is it a bait & switch, it’s a really bad switch, not only for the non-teacher, but also for the students in those classes, as the non-teacher is not going to have the tools to get such kids motivated to learn, the way that someone who has the training in curriculum & pedagogy will.

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  2. En6: It was not much of an issue for the Navy to launch a plane from a ship, but recovery was a thorny problem until the tailhook and snare cable system was developed.

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  3. En3 – “many are hoping they do for engineering and sciences what little league does for future pro players.”

    Exploit them in a ruinous zero sum competition where only a few will go on to success while sucking the fun out of it for most?

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    • That’s a pretty dim view of it. I can kind of see that point with some of the extremes and how some folks take it too far, but there is good aspects to youth sports as well, kept in proper perspective. To be fair, some parents are just as awful and hypercompetitve regarding getting there perceived wunderkind into the best schools and such.

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      • To clarify & extend, with a little less zip on the fastball, I think the characterization of Little League Baseball as a feeder into the pro leagues is incorrect. Little League Baseball is fine and fun – as are most youth sports leagues. The type of program that has a pipeline feeder focus (in America) doesn’t usually start till the high schools (but does effect who gets into certain private, usually Catholic prep schools)

        Televising the Little League World Series, and how the associated leagues reconfigure themselves to get to that point, is still somewhat Problematic(tm) though.

        I think if youth leagues *start* to explictly (even if not exclusively) focus on future pro prospects, that would be terribad. And I’m sure some parts of some leagues already do.

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        • We live next door to a park where several kids’ baseball teams play and practice.

          I see lots of good supportive fun-first coaching, and a bit of truly awful abusive coaching. I’m not sure if those latter are parents or staff / volunteer coaches, but if I once saw my kid treated that way by a coach, there is absolutely no way I’d let that coach ever speak a single word to my child again. Not even an apology – I’d have them write it down so I could review it before delivering it to the child.

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