Thursday, October 29, 2009

Humans, Shmumans: What Mars Needs Is an Armada of Robots and Blimps

Humans, Shmumans: What Mars Needs Is an Armada of Robots and Blimps: "The best way to study the surface of Mars is with a slew of small, cheap ground rovers guided by a fleet of airships that communicate with orbiters, according to researchers at Cal Tech.


Survey Shows Parents Would Rather Talk Drugs Than Science or Math

Survey Shows Parents Would Rather Talk Drugs Than Science or Math: "
Better than drugs. Math books. (image:

Better than drugs. Math books. (image:

There is a point in every family when it’s time for the talk. No, not that talk. Not that one either. I’m talking about the science and math talk. The kind of talk that should happen every time your child is having trouble or even just working on their homework. Though most parents, having been through primary school themselves at some point, have a difficult time with this talk. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted through the Intel Corporation parents are more comfortable talking with their kids about drugs than about science and math.

Some key points from the survey:

  • More than 50 percent (53 percent) of parents of teenagers admit that they have trouble helping their children with math and science homework.

  • Nearly a quarter of parents (23 percent) who admit to being less involved in their child’s math and science education than they would like say their own lack of knowledge in these subjects is a key barrier.

  • Another 26 percent of parents who are less involved than they would like wish there was a one-stop shop with materials to refresh their existing, but unused math and science knowledge so they can better help their kids.

Talking about drugs is easier for parents because it’s a vague subject. It doesn’t have much depth to it. You can get the message across in just a couple short sentences, or an example of someones’ life gone wrong thanks to the influence of drugs. Not to mention, it’s a talk that almost every competent parent has with their child at some point in their lives, right up there with the good ‘ol sex talk.

Science and math are not vague subjects. Not only is there extreme depth to be found, but there is commonly a generational gap between the parent and the child. Science and math hasn’t changed, but the amount of knowledge and the understanding has. We know more as adults than when we were children, but we have to relate to them on a child’s level, rather than on an adult level understanding of the material. This is where it becomes difficult for parents. From Shelly Esque, vice president of Intel’s Corporate Affairs Group:

“Our survey points to a difficult reality for our nation’s parents: While they may recognize the importance of math and science, they are unable to engage with their children around these subjects due to limited understanding of the topics and scarcity of resources to help. We need to help parents help their kids make the best choices, including taking math and science courses so they are prepared to succeed.”

Even though 98 percent of parents believe that science and math are critical to the future of the country and 91 percent believe that parental involvement is key to their children’s success parents are still having trouble talking to their children about science and math. Sure, it’s easy to express the importance of the subjects, but when it comes down to actually doing something - that is where we’re lacking. Even I have trouble helping with math and science sometimes. Not because I’m not knowledgeable, but because it’s hard to transfer my knowledge to that of an eight year old.

The problem is, parents recognize that math and science are critical to their child’s future success, but they also realize that speaking to their children about drugs and alcohol is critical to their child’s survival. Especially when it comes to talking to teenagers, it’s hard enough just saying hello to them, much less trying to connect with them on their school work. So the drug talk is always easier.

What parents need, and by the percentages mentioned above they know they need it, is help. Normally I’d say that it’s all up to the parents and they should work on the effectiveness without outside intervention. However, when a company like Intel is willing to step up and put in the time and resources to come up with solutions to assist parents in connecting with their children on math and science, I’ll make an exception. Through their initiatives they are looking to bridge the gap and create tools that parents can use to better understand what their children are working on and what they can do to help. More from Shelly Esque:

Over the past decades, Intel has worked extensively with teachers, students, communities and governments to help inspire and prepare the next generation of innovators with a solid math and science education. We haven’t, though, worked with parents, who we think are a critical piece of the education equation. Our goal in releasing the results of this survey is to raise awareness among parents that they aren’t alone in their challenges so they feel more confident seeking out assistance to encourage their kids to take an interest in math and science, and we hope resource providers will come forward to help them.

Parents, take note. When a company like Intel is stepping in to provide a means to assist you in bridging the educational gap with your children - take full advantage. To that point, if you have the resources to help feel free to do so. While it’s important that your kids grow up drug free and healthy, it’s just as important that they grow up educated as well. You can almost guarantee that the less you focus on their education, the more you are going to be focusing on the drug talks.

To learn more about the Intel Education Initiative, visit To join Intel’s community for change in global education, visit


Drugs An Easier Topic for Parents Than Math or Science: Survey

Drugs An Easier Topic for Parents Than Math or Science: Survey: "There's a point in every family when it’s time for the talk. No, not that talk — the science and math talk. The kind of talk that should happen every time your child is having trouble with or even just working on their homework. But according to a recent survey, parents fear these topic so much they'd rather have the drug talk.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Los Angeles Goes Google: City Votes To Outsource Email, Web Services

Los Angeles Goes Google: City Votes To Outsource Email, Web Services: "

LOS ANGELES — City Council members tentatively approved a multimillion-dollar proposal Tuesday to tap Google Inc. for government e-mail and other Internet services, a boon for the Web giant as it seeks to wrest market share for office software from rival Microsoft Corp.

The Council voted unanimously for the $7.2 million deal with contractor Computer Sciences Corp. to replace many city computer systems with the so-called Google Apps services.

An amendment added shortly before the vote makes the contract contingent on Computer Science agreeing to pay a preset penalty if a security breach occurs. The contractor's project manager David Barber said he believed such an agreement would be reached.

The city's police officers' union and privacy advocates had raised security concerns over the Google contract because it places data online rather than on individual computers under the city's direct control.

Under the deal, Google will provide e-mail, calendar, online chatting and other services to 30,000 city employees.

The Council chose Google's offer over competing bids from Microsoft and more than a dozen other technology firms eager to score the nation's second second-largest city as a client.

The move will also end the city's 7-year contract to use Novell Inc.'s GroupWise e-mail and record-keeping software, which city workers have complained is slow and crash-prone.

Novell senior vice president said during the Council hearing that many city departments were not using the most recent version of GroupWise and reiterated an offer to provide additional services for free.

'The titans are fighting, and they all want our attention,' said Councilman Tony Cardenas, who sponsored the legislation granting the contract to Google.

The vote came amid a push by Mountain View-based Google to market its "cloud computing" services – applications that run remotely on the company's own servers instead of users' desktop machines – to governments and large security-conscious corporations.

'In our view, this can be a watershed agreement,' said Dave Girouard, president of the Google division that provides business services. 'There's a lot of cities and counties around the state and around the nation who were watching this.'

The shift toward cloud-computing is troublesome to Microsoft, the fortunes of which are largely tethered to operating systems and office software that run on desktop machines, said technology analyst Rob Enderle.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company's failure to seize the Los Angeles contract represented a setback in its efforts to compete with Google for Web-based e-mail and other applications, Enderle said.

'Losing something of this size has to be really painful,' he said. 'It's not the death knell for them, but it's a big red flag.'

Microsoft vice president of state and local government Gail Thomas Flynn stressed in an e-mail that Los Angeles city workers will continue to use the company's Office software.

She said that Glaxo Smith Kline PLC and Coca Cola Enterprises, as well as Ohio's statewide university system and the city of Carlsbad, Calif. use the company's cloud-computing services.

'In any cloud solution the true measure of success lies with standing up and deploying the solution as well as ensuring the security and privacy of citizens,' she said.

Google's e-mail service is being phased in among city workers in Washington D.C. and many large companies, such as Genentech Inc., use the company's suite of online applications.

For Google, getting the Los Angeles contract is a chance to demonstrate its ability to securely handle data for a large number of users, something it is sure to highlight as it seeks more large clients, Enderle said.

Councilman Paul Koretz, who introduced the security breach amendment, voted for the contract despite reservations over whether the company's system had been sufficiently tested.

'It's unclear to me whether we're on the cutting edge or if we're on the edge of a cliff about to step off,' he said.

Proponents repeated a City Administrative Officer estimate that the new contract would save the city some $5 million in service costs over five years, in addition to allowing the city's technology department to shed nine positions.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl said he thought being Google's first big city customer was an advantage, since the company would be especially careful in the knowledge that other governments were watching.

'I don't mind being the poster boy for the big cities,' he said.

More on Google"

YouTubing the liberal arts campus: Washington and Lee

YouTubing the liberal arts campus: Washington and Lee: "

Another liberal arts campus has a YouTube Channel:  Washington and Lee University,

a href=””>YouTube_WLU

Does your campus have a YouTube channel?


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Bioshock 2 Trailer

New Bioshock 2 Trailer: "It's here:

Everything's bigger, faster, louder -- in other words very sequel-y. But it's still about moral choices, people. You're not actually supposed to enjoy incinerating splicers with your awesome plasmids!
The bits where you're actually underwater -- either you're outside, or Rapture is flooded -- look amazing. The trailer is focused intensively on combat, rather [...]"

The 10 biggest misconceptions we learn in school

The 10 biggest misconceptions we learn in school: "


There are some myths which become firmly ensconced in people's minds, even though they are quite definitely wrong. I saw this on my blog recently, when those commenting on a post about nursery rhymes were keen to prove to others that Ring a Ring of Roses was not written about the plague.

These ten are are some of the best - though I'm not sure they can all be blamed on the school system. Thanks very much to Manolith, and a post written by a teacher, Paul Jury, whose list they are. Please let me know if you can think of any more!

1) Einstein got bad grades in school.

Generations of children have been heartened by the thought that this Nobel Prize winner did badly at school, but they're sadly mistaken. In fact, he did very well at school, especially in science and maths (unsurprisingly). Jury explains this as being down to Americans interpreting Einstein's 4's as D's. Karl Kruszelnicki, however, explains that it was all to do with changes to the system of marking at Einstein's school (back in1896). Either way, the myth is not true, and children do need to work to succeed. Sorry!

2) Mice like cheese

Dear oh dear. While any young child could tell you this, any mice would (if they could speak rather than squeak) explain otherwise. It appears that mice enjoy food rich in sugar, as explained in the Times, as well as peanut butter and breakfast cereals (things, as Paul Jury points out, that are rich in grains and seeds, which they are used to). So a Snickers bar would go down much better than a lump of cheddar.

3) Napoleon was short.

Ah, the aggressive short man (often called, ironically, the Napoleon) complex. Short men love a hero and Napoleon appears to fit the bill. In fact, it appears that a mistranslation explains why some said he was just 5ft 2. He was actually around 5ft 7, completely average for the 18th/19th century.

4) Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.

I don't know how many times I've heard this one and wanted to point out that it's just damn wrong! Edison invented a lot of things - in fact he's one of the most famous inventors of all time - but the light bulb wasn't one of them. What he did was develop a light bulb at the same time as the British man, Joseph Swan, who came up with it originally...

5) Lemmings throw themselves over cliffs to commit suicide

Why do we have such negative opinions of lemmings? The poor old things are sometimes so desperate for food that they do, according to the BBC "jump over high ground into water", but they aren't committing group suicide. Paul Jury blames Disney for showing the lemmings doing this in an early nature film. They've been tarnished ever since.

6) Water flushes differently in different hemispheres

No it doesn't. Sorry!

7) Humans evolved from apes

Darwin didn't actually say this, but he's been misreported ever since. What he did say was that we, and apes, and chimpanzees for that matter, had a common ancestor, once, a long, long time ago.

8) Vikings had horns/helmets with horns.

This may upset an awful lot of people, but it's pure myth. According to the Jorvik Centre, it appears that Vikings may have been buried with their helmets and with drinking horns. When they were dug up by the Victorians, they assumed that the helmets had horns....(I have to say that, until now, I had believed this one!)

9) Columbus believed the earth was flat

He didn't, you know. He may not have known how big the world was, but he wasn't worrying about falling off the edge of it. Read Teaching History on this very issue.

10) Different parts of the tongue detect different tastes

You do have different taste buds on your tongue and some are more sensitive than others. But they aren't divided into perfect, easy-to-teach sections. See BBC Science for more on this...

Read School Gate:

Eight reasons why non-teachers will never understand teachers

Why children should learn about kings and queens

7 ways to get your children to do their homework