Neutrino Detector Searching for String Theory Evidence

Posted on January 30, 2006  Comments (0)

Excellent 10 minute podcast presents details on search for evidence of string theory via Project IceCube.

Main IceCube web site – “IceCube is a one-cubic-kilometer international high-energy neutrino observatory being built and installed in the clear deep ice below the South Pole Station.”

South Pole Neutrino Detector Could Yield Evidences of String Theory:

Researchers at Northeastern University and the University of California, Irvine say that scientists might soon have evidence for extra dimensions and other exotic predictions of string theory. Early results from a neutrino detector at the South Pole, called AMANDA, show that ghostlike particles from space could serve as probes to a world beyond our familiar three dimensions, the research team says.

Toyota k-12 Science Grants

Posted on January 29, 2006  Comments (0)

Sponsored by Toyota and administered by National Science Teachers Association, Toyota TAPESTRY is the largest K-12 science teacher grant program in the nation, providing 50 grants of up to $10,000 each to K-12 science teachers, as well as a minimum of 20 mini-grants of up to $2,500 each for projects smaller in scope. These grants are awarded for creative, innovative classroom projects in the fields of environmental education, physical science, and literacy and science education.

Over the past 14 years, TAPESTRY has awarded more than $6 million in grants to 673 teams of teachers from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Saipan who have created innovative science projects that can be implemented in their school or school districts.

2005 Grants include:

  • Our 5th and 6th graders will be teaming with biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to study water quality and salmon health throughout the Kenai River. Over the past few years the young salmon have shown an alarming decrease in size, and the students will be involved in an actual research project to determine if this trend is happening throughout the entire watershed, and what might be some of the contributing variables. Grant funds will be used to purchase dissecting microscopes for macroinvertebrate identification, equipment for the collection of specimens, and probeware for the field analysis of water samples using handheld computers. Several field trips are planned throughout the year, each designed to explore a different of segment of the river ecosystem from its source in Kenai Lake, to the spawning grounds in Skilak Lake, to its outlet into Cook Inlet.
  • Our project will give 10th grade students a hands-on opportunity for an inquiry-based investigative experience similar to the scientific research conducted at the prestigious Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The students will develop a critical understanding of cancer cells by investigating and performing state-of-the-art techniques and translate their comprehension of the academic language of molecular biology.

Their web site includes abstracts and contact details for present and past grant winners.

Magnetic Misfit Bacteria

Posted on January 25, 2006  Comments (0)

Magnetic Misfits: South Seeking Bacteria in the Northern Hemisphere

Magnetotactic bacteria contain chains of magnetic iron minerals that allow them to orient in the earth’s magnetic field much like living compass needles. These bacteria have long been observed to respond to high oxygen levels in the lab by swimming towards geomagnetic north in the Northern Hemisphere and geomagnetic south in the Southern Hemisphere. In either hemisphere, this behavior would also lead them downward in the water column into areas with their preferred oxygen level. But an unusual bacterium in New England has been found doing just the opposite, a magnetic misfit of sorts.

Simmons, a graduate student in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography and Applied Ocean Science and Engineering, received some additional support for her study from a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. Edwards is her advisor.

Solar Powered Hearing Aid

Posted on January 24, 2006  Comments (5)

Solar Hearing Aid
African-Made, Solar-Powered Hearing Aid

The SolarAid is a hearing aid designed and built by Godisa Technologies, a Botswana company founded to make low-cost hearing aids for the developing world. The SolarAid system combines a small hearing aid and a lightweight solar charger; Godisa developed the first No. 13 rechargeable button battery for the system. Godisa is Africa’s only hearing aid manufacturer, and the only one in the world making hearing aids specifically for the sub-Saharan Africa environment.

Innovation through creating effective solutions using technology solutions that have existed in other contexts can have huge impacts. Appropriate technology solutions offer the opportunity for great gains for humanity.

Related posts:

Santa Fe Institute High School Internship

Posted on January 23, 2006  Comments (0)

The Santa Fe Institute, located in Santa Fe New Mexico, has devoted itself to the creation of a new kind of scientific research community pursuing emerging syntheses in science.

The institute offers High School Internships:

The Santa Fe Institute Summer Internship/Mentorship (SIM) Program gives high school students the opportunity to come to SFI to actively participate in its research-based curriculum, enjoy stimulating guest lectures, and contribute to a scientific effort as part of a multi-generational research team. This six week “SIM experience” broadens students’ scientific horizons, and accelerates academic and personal development by immersing them in a supportive community of scholars. At the conclusion of the summer internship, students will present their work and, if appropriate, develop a plan for continuation throughout the school year. Students completing the summer program will receive a modest stipend.

Applications must be postmarked no later than Friday, April 15.

Diversity in Science and Engineering

Posted on January 23, 2006  Comments (4)

Diversity in Science & Engineering: Reflecting on the Summers Hypothesis by David Keyes. More discussion of possible causes for the under-representation of certain demographic groups in science and engineering community and possible changes that could improve the situation should be encouraged.

China graduates about 600,000 bachelor’s-level engineers per year, compared to 70,000 for the US, and it costs about one-fifth as much to employ an engineer in China. India graduates 350,000 engineers per year, and employs them for one-eleventh as much. In the past, the US counted on importing the best of foreign trained engineering bachelor’s holders, who now make up 65 percent of the doctoral degree candidates in engineering at US universities. Today, fewer foreign-born US Ph.D. holders can be expected to remain in the US, now that their native infrastructures for S&E research and education are improving.

I encourage people to explore Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate by Dr. Gary Gereffi and Vivek Wadhwa. I find the report compelling. Still, I would like some confirmation (or compelling arguments detailing what is wrong with the study) that the numbers in Duke’s report are more relevant than those quoted above, and elsewhere.

Also, in this context wouldn’t looking at the diversity of the engineers in China and India be interesting?

There are many ways of slicing demographic data, but by any metric, the US is failing to train a competitive number of domestic scientists and engineers. It produces only about 5.5 S&E bachelor’s degrees per 100 24-year-olds overall, according to 2004 NSF data. Raising the participation of women in S&E in their 24-year-old cohort (currently 4.5 per 100) to that of men (currently 7 per 100 in theirs) is one strategy. Raising the participation of African Americans (currently 3 per 100) and Hispanics (currently 2.5 per 100) is another, particularly as the latter population base grows relative to Caucasians (with 6 per 100). Meanwhile, Asians and Pacific Islanders in the US account for 14.5 S&E bachelor’s degrees per 100 24-year-olds in their cohort.

I believe there is no one cause for the current demographic makeup of various slices of the science and engineering community and there will be no one change that will bring dramatic results. Many good things have been done and progress has been made. There is still room for many more improvements, but I think the future will be made better by hundreds and thousands of relatively small incremental improvements.

Women in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon has several papers online discussing some of the discoveries made while improving female representation at the University.

Transforming the Culture of Computing at Carnegie Mellon
, by Lenore Blum:

In 1995, the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) began an effort to bring more women into its undergraduate computer science (CS) program.
At that time, just 7% (7 out of 96) of entering freshman computer science majors at
Carnegie Mellon were women. Five years later, in 1999, the percentage of women in the
entering class had increased fivefold to about 38% (50 out of 130).

Related posts:

Taiwan as Technology Innovator

Posted on January 22, 2006  Comments (0)

Taiwan towers as tech innovator by John Boudreau, Mercury News (pointy haired bosses broke the link so I removed it):

Taiwanese companies produce three-quarters of the world’s notebook computers, two-thirds of its personal digital assistants and nearly 70 percent of its liquid crystal display monitors, according to Taiwan government statistics.

`Innovation is the key to survival,” said Yen-Shiang Shih, a deputy minister with Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs.

GPS – Science Economy

Posted on January 22, 2006  Comments (2)

Many cool products result from scientific and engineering research and development. One class of such products are the global positioning system devices. One example of those devices is the Garmin Nuvi 350 Pocket or Vehicle GPS Navigator Viewer (buy from Amazon) – in photo.

Europe, is exploring putting their own GPS satellite system in orbit to remove their current dependence of the system using United States military satellites. Sat-nav looks to smart ideas:

Analysts believe the value of the Galileo-enhanced business – equipment and services – could be worth well in excess of 10 billion euros a year by 2020, as sat-nav functionality wheedles its way into every corner of modern life.

Some applications are obvious: consumer mobiles which not only allow you to phone ahead and book that pizza restaurant but also show you on-screen how to get there and tell you where the nearest cashpoint is located.

Other applications will stretch the imagination and ingenuity of Europe’s smartest technologists.

Soil Could Shed Light on Antibiotic Resistance

Posted on January 21, 2006  Comments (4)

Soil Could Shed Light on Antibiotic Resistance, Science Friday podcast (7 minutes) from NPR. The podcast is an interview with Gerry Wright, McMaster University, Canada.

“New research points to drug resistance in soil-dwelling bacteria. Scientists say studying bacteria in the soil can help in understanding how the bacteria in humans develop resistance.”

Posts relating to antibiotics
Overuse of anitbiotics articles
Curious Cat McMaster University Alumni Connections

Africa Scientific

Posted on January 21, 2006  Comments (1)

Africa Scientific by Dr. Mohamed H.A. Hassan, Seed:

in Nigeria, the malaria group at the University of Ibadan is conducting research on a local disease problem, as is the Federal University of Technology-Minna, which has developed a typhoid vaccine for their own population. Makerere University’s Medical Biotechnology Laboratories in Kampala, Uganda, has an extensive molecular biology research and training program; among its most noteworthy efforts are studies of alternative treatments of river blindness, a fly-borne parasitic disease that just a decade ago afflicted one out of every three villagers in parts of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria and other nations.

I lived in Nigeria for a year, when I was a child, while my father taught chemical engineering as a Fulbright scholar. I still remember visiting factories, that I believe he was consulting for, as we traveled around West Africa. I returned to Africa in the 1990s to revisit Kenya and visit Egypt. See my travel photos from Kenya and a travel photo essay from Egypt.

John Hunter

Children’s view of Scientists in England

Posted on January 21, 2006  Comments (5)

Science ‘not for normal people’, BBC News

The Science Learning Centre in London asked 11,000 pupils for their views on science and scientists.

Around 70% of the 11-15 year olds questioned said they did not picture scientists as “normal young and attractive men and women”.

For those, like me, that believe our future will be better with more scientists and engineers some of the findings are less than ideal:

Among those who said they would not like to be scientists, reasons included: “Because you would constantly be depressed and tired and not have time for family”, and “because they all wear big glasses and white coats and I am female”.

Some of the findings were positive:

They found around 80% of pupils thought scientists did “very important work” and 70% thought they worked “creatively and imaginatively”.

A related article from BBC News provides another look at the views of students: Science seen under the right conditions by Dr Daniel Glaser.

Another article on the BBC site talks about one way to encourage more student interest in science, Science ‘must teach experiments’. To interest students in learning about science it is important to have them engaged in physical experiments. We also need to continue to show the connection between science and engineering and the students lives. Providing examples of scientists and engineer that the student relate to (and can see as a friend or a future self) would also help.