Physics of Olympic Bodies

As the Olympic frenzy draws to a close, it is time to analyze the events, the records, and the athletes themselves. This infographic compares Olympians both past and present, and shares how the changes in their physical anatomy has allowed for records to be broken. Unfortunately, the benefits that they have include things like longer […]

As the Olympic frenzy draws to a close, it is time to analyze the events, the records, and the athletes themselves. This infographic compares Olympians both past and present, and shares how the changes in their physical anatomy has allowed for records to be broken. Unfortunately, the benefits that they have include things like longer than average legs, and mostly an overall height advantage, as compared to their predecessors. They are things that we can only hope to develop at age 13, but cannot change once we are adults.

Where speed is desired, being tall and slim are advantageous. Where strength is desired, being tall and large are advantageous. Challenge your students to come up with other areas where these strengths are developed. For instance, sports cars are often long and slim. Meanwhile, machinery used for lifting heavy items are often larger all around.

Use experiments to figure out why certain attributes are advantageous. Use water projectiles to figure out why being lean is advantageous. In a tub of water, it is easier to see a large object being stopped and slowed down by the water. On the other hand, use legos to hold a certain mass. Build a tall slim, and a short fat object and place similar objects on both. Which one can hold it? Why?

Blog: http://goo.gl/XfaOw

100 Years of Automotive Evolution

This infographic compares two vehicles, one made over 100 years ago, and one being made this year. It shares basic information about each, to show how far we have come. It shares that we now have safety features, entertainment features, and features beyond having to walk everywhere. This infographic, found on visual.ly, does a great […]

This infographic compares two vehicles, one made over 100 years ago, and one being made this year. It shares basic information about each, to show how far we have come. It shares that we now have safety features, entertainment features, and features beyond having to walk everywhere.

This infographic, found on visual.ly, does a great job of explaining simple information in a visually stimulating, and organized way. It uses a road to separate subjects, and gives headers for every section. It would be a great example to show your students how to make a simple infographic.

It would also be a great introduction into technology involving engines. How was the first engine created? What advances had to occur in order for it to be successful? Who else was working on an engine for a car, and what were their ideas? Dozens of people were working on this technology, trying to be the first and the best. It wasn’t just a single person who had an accident in a lab and invented the vehicle. Continue to track other innovations that led to today’s engine, and engines of the future. This will allow students to create a more simple knowledge base to build on.

Blog: http://visual.ly/100-years-automotive-evolution

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 🙂

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

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.