The Credit Crisis Visualized

I’m not an economist by any means so when someone starts talking about really any aspect of our complex economy, I’m pretty much lost. I think I need about 100 videos like this before I would truly understand it but this one helps a lot. Apparently there are a lot of layers to what’s going […]

I’m not an economist by any means so when someone starts talking about really any aspect of our complex economy, I’m pretty much lost. I think I need about 100 videos like this before I would truly understand it but this one helps a lot. Apparently there are a lot of layers to what’s going on here and if something different starts happening on any one layer, it’s going to send the whole thing to a screeching halt. Pretty scary.

The Credit Crisis Visualized

Why 3D Printing & Fabrication are Important to Education

(cc) Photo by Anja C. Wagner
3D printer selbstgebaut vom ODC (self-made at the open design center, probably in Berlin)

I mentioned in my ISTE Reflection article that I thought 2012 would be the year that 3D printing and fab labs emerged as a major interest to the education world. But it’s more than just a cool technology that we’d like to see in schools.  Personal fabrication may be hugely important to us.

A couple of weeks ago, I was having coffee with my friend, neighbor and fellow blogger, Paul Gilster (Centauri Dreams).  A self-made authority on interstellar space exploration and associate with the Tau Zero Foundation, Gilster has inspired me for years, as expressed in the acknowledgments of all my books.

On that day, he told me about work toward sending small spacecraft to specific positions in space in relation to the sun.  The craft would look back at our star and utilize the bending of light caused by the sun’s gravitational force to magnify what’s on the other side.  The concept is called Gravitational Lensing, and was initially mentioned by physicist Orest Chwolson in 1924 and first quantified by Albert Einstein in 1936. In effect, we would be turning the sun into a gigantic lens, through which we would be able to see, according to Gilster, planets orbiting distant stars, continents on those worlds, and even cities, if they exist.

This is where my legs started to get wobbly.

Getting to specifics, Paul explained that to get a spacecraft to that position, about 750 astronomical units (AU) from the sun (Pluto orbits at an average of 40au), the craft would have to be very small and utilize nano scale mechanisms and even some degree of artificial intelligence.

At that point, a recurring question came to mind, which I asked,

“Assume that we’re approaching the limits of what we would practically want to do with our cell phones and personal computers, and that they’re about as small as we wish them to be, what’s going to drive further research and development in miniaturization – making things smaller?  Surely not NASA.”

I didn’t actually speak the last sentence.  But Gilster said that aside from the military, it would be personal fabrication, that we would all have our own in-house fabricators, where we would design and “print” our own cellphones, etc.  

As my son explained it to me, the lid that holds the batteries in our TV remote is broken and has been discarded.  As a result, we have to handle the remote with care to prevent the batteries from falling out.  Tape has not been a satisfactory solution.  With a 3D printer, we would simply go to the Samsung web site, look up the part and print it.  Ten minutes later (or an hour later, it doesn’t matter) the part would be sitting in our printer, where we could clip it into our remote.  One of the 3D printers that I saw at ISTE cost only $1,600.  The original Macintosh computers were nearly twice that expensive with only 128K of memory and no hard drive.  3D printers may become very important to us.

The true potential is when we can design our own remotes, with our our own sense of flair, using design software, and then print in our own homes.  Cottage industries might emerge, contests, DIY markets – and all fueled by creativity and inventiveness.

Check out the proliferation of Maker Faires and Cory Doctorow’s 2009 novel, Makers.

Now this idea of in-house fabrication and its cultural impact may seem a bit far-fetched to you.  However, if you’re old enough, you may remember a time when carrying your personal phone in your pocket might have seemed just as unlikely – a phone with which you could get weather and news reports on demand, have access to an interconnected global library, pinpoint your exact location on a map and participate in any of a million global conversations.

My question is this.  What should our children be learning today and how should they be learning it, to be ready to leverage this kind of creative opportunity?

What do you think?

Upcoming North Carolina Science Conference

Someone took this picture of me in The Cave, a virtual reality space at Duke University. It was part of ScienceOnline2008.

With tightening (and disappearing) budgets, especially for professional development, making it to conferences that are not core education events has become difficult. Yet, it is these field-oriented PD opportunities that teachers, intent on transforming their classrooms, need to be attending — Real World.

One such is ScienceOnline2012. I attended some of the earliest of these conferences which seemed to be spinoffs from the earlier BloggerCons of a half decade ago. The desire was to explore how the work of scientists and science journalists could benefit from the World Wide Web 2.0. They were fascinating conferences, because they were at their essence, about literacy, (accessing, working, and communicating information) within a context that is real, important, and huge!  From their web site:

Every January since 2007, the Research Triangle area of North Carolina has hosted scientists, students, educators, physicians, journalists, librarians, bloggers, programmers and others interested in the way the World Wide Web is changing the way science is communicated, taught and done.

The focus of the conference has broadened substantially beyond blogs, wikis, and podcasting.  This year will include presentations from leaders in the fields of infographics, data visualization, and how gaming is being used to conduct science research.

Links

There’s not much that’s better, for this confirmed and long-time nerd, than being in a room filled with scientists. Teachers and students should feel this thrill as well.

This years ScienceOnline will be held at the McKimmon Center on the campus of North Carolina State University, January 19-21, 2012. Links to the agenda, program, and registration are in the box to the right.

Organizers have always wanted to bring precollege educators to the conference, and especially teacher-student pairs.  Event sponsors are providing for scholarships for just such attendees, and you can apply for one of these opportunities here.  In the box at the bottom of the form, include your name, the name of the student, grade, and subject(s) taught.

I sure hope I can talk Brenda into sponsoring me 🙂

Snake Oil?

This is an intriguing interactive infographic developed by superstar David McCandless in the area of health. It represents various dietary supplements as balloons that rise or fall based on the evidence that they actually have positive effects on various and selectable ailments and conditions.

McCandless says,

This image is a “balloon race”. The higher a bubble, the greater the evidence for its effectiveness. But the supplements are only effective for the conditions listed inside the bubble.

You might also see multiple bubbles for certain supps. These is because some supps affect a range of conditions, but the evidence quality varies from condition to condition. For example, there’s strong evidence that Green Tea is good for cholesterol levels. But evidence for its anti-cancer effects is conflicting. In these cases, we give a supp another bubble.

The backend data is stored and the graphic is generated out of this Google Doc. From here, new research can be added in, adapting the graphic. Source documents are included in this file.

Links:

Solar System Scope

Not all infographics can be printed on paper. Some can move and some are interactive, like this project, brought to my attention by Andrew Vande Moere’s in Information Aesthetics. You have a 3D map of the Solar System, that you can flick around, and even zoom in on planets and other astronomical objects.

From the article,

Solar System Scope [solarsystemscope.com] offers an intuitive 3D interactive view of our solar system.

While the application is able to show the real-time celestial positions of planets and constellations moving about in heliocentric, geocentric and panoramic views, it also allows the changing of various parameters, inclusive of time, and the measuring of distances between planets.

Blog Article: Solar System Scope: a 3D Interactive View of our Solar System

Main Site: Solar System Scope

The State of Twitter

Are you on Twitter? After viewing this infographic, you might ask, “Why not?” From the Mashable blog post I got this from,

There is no doubt that Twitter has been a runaway success. Add to their rapid growth the recently announced @anywhere platform, and plans for further international expansion, and it comes as no surprise that the company is not looking to sell — at least within the next 2 years.

While the site’s growth has certainly been impressive and it has reached the point of non-displacement, there are some interesting hidden truths about Twitter and its users. The following graphic takes a look at Twitter’s path to 10 billion tweets, what we have learned about its users and what they’ve been talking about along the way.

Blog Link: The Current State of Twitter

Graphic Link: The Path to 10 Billion

Data Sources: HubSpot, Mashable, Pingdom, RJMetrics, Twitter, Quantcast

UNESCO Institute for Statistics – ..education data from around the world

Beyond_20_20_WDS_-_Table_View-20110405-131917.jpgThis is a broad set of data describing education around the world. Example of tables include:

  • Demographic and economic data
  • Enrollment by grade
  • Repeaters by grade
  • Teaching Staff
  • School Life Expectancy

..and much more.

There is a somewhat difficult to decode method for customizing your tables, but I was able to produce and download an Excel file with the number of educaiton staff in the Arabe nations from 1999 to 2010 in about 15 minutes.

So what you you do with that?

Youth Movement

The world may never have been so mobile, and the shifting demographics will certainly affect the future of various parts of the world. So where are the young moving and how much skill and knowledge (education) are they carrying with them? This collaboration between GOOD and Column Five Media seeks to answer these questions.

From the blog entry:

From 2007 to 2010, Gallup posed this evocative question to people in 148 countries all over the world. To include an additional dimension, the responses of young people aged 15 to 29, as well as educated adults, were also tracked. Together, the conceivable gain in overall population tell a tale of how the wishful relocation of young and educated people could shape what the world would resemble as desire becomes reality.

Instructional Ideas:

Learners might be asked to investigate countries, to which educated youth are moving, suggest, and support what they think might be the conditions and opportunities that draw them.

Data Source:

Gallup

Radiation Dose Chart

There is a lot of discussion these days about radiation links from the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan. Unfortunately, there is little mention of the amount of radiation and it’s danger. This infographic was shared by Randall Monroe through his XKCD blog.

From the Source:

Ellen, a friend of mine who’s a student at Reed and Senior Reactor Operator at the Reed Research Reactor, has been spending the last few days answering questions about radiation dosage virtually nonstop (I’ve actually seen her interrupt them with “brb, reactor”). She suggested a chart might help put different amounts of radiation into perspective, and so with her help, I put one together. She also made one of her own; it has fewer colors, but contains more information about what radiation exposure consists of and how it affects the body.

Note that there are different types of ionizing radiation; the “sievert” unit quantifies the degree to which each type (gamma rays, alpha particles, etc) affects the body. You can learn more from my sources list. If you’re looking for expert updates on the nuclear situation, try the MIT NSE Hub. Ellen’s page on radiation is here.

Instructional Suggestions:

This infographic will certainly provoke conversations about radiation, various radiation related health diagnoses and treatment.  There are also opportunities to integrate mathematics, asking learners to compute proportions.

Data Source(s):

List of source links

Water is Essential to Everyday Life

It is one of the most plentiful and crucial substances on the planet, water. It’s also one of the substances that we take very much for granted and spend little time thinking about. This information video effectively shares many enlightening facts about our world of water.

From the Original Blog Entry:

Water is essential to everyday life. In a day, Europeans use about 50 gallons (189 liters) of water. American use 100 gallons (379 liters). Those living in sub-Saharan Africa use 2-5 gallons per day. More than 25% of bottled water comes from the same place as tap water; a municipal water supply. Drinking 8 glasses of water a day from water bottles will cost up to $1,400 over a year. Drinking from the tap will cost about $0.50 per year.

We also learn that it takes: 10 gallons to make a single slice of bread, 713 gallons to produce a cotton t-shirt, 1,000 gallons to make 1 gallon of milk, and 634 gallons to produce 1 burger.