Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Mental imagery is something that can help build memory for particular actions or cognitive activities, largely because neuroimaging experiments show as much as 90% of the neurons that are used in the actual, physical activity are firing in mental imagery exercises. To the brain, imagery is not so different from the real thing. Imagery can help us with the following:
- not only visualizing what the activity is, but also gaining spatial, auditory and kinesthetic information and practice and memory for that activity;
- helps with activities with high levels of organization, multi-steps, and decision making;
- positive imagery has a positive effect on real performance results: for example, golfers do 30% better on putting when positively imagining sinking putts, and 20% worse when imagining missing putts;
For readers, 60% of 5th graders report naturally using some imagery during 'think aloud' breaks in reading stories. It appears to be a natural reaction, even for children, to try and 'see' the scenes that words are trying to convey in order to develop memories of a story that we, ourselves, are not part of in reality. Humans are more visual creatures, as I like to tell my own students, and it is important to remind and also teach students how to visualize physical events and experiences. In fact, in problem solving in physics, I try and teach as an essential part of every single problem to draw a picture and mentally 'see' what is happening in the problem. We use a technique that requires making pictures and labeling all forces on the picture, and then use the picture to actually set up the math (for F = ma problems). So science and imagery are naturally connected, just as reading, writing and imagery are connected. Memory improves when visualization and imagery are used for stories or for how physical events play out in reality. The experimental finding that a good majority of the brain used for the physical activity is used in imagery, too, begins to explain why this process works.
Imagery is used extensively in elementary grades, and the combination of mental imagery with drawing pictures and other hands-on, physical activities makes for a powerful way of building memory and learning. We tend to actually decrease the use of imagery techniques as students progress into higher grades. Perhaps imagery is used most extensively in science classes by the time students get to high school, but it seems as if the use of imagery and hands on activities decreases significantly in literature and history/social studies classes, at least via anecdotal evidence and through conversations with students. Perhaps this is something educators need to consider more in practice.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Check this out!! It is one way of thinking about it, and getting to a result that shows energy and matter are of the form E = mc^2. It makes use of the binomial approximation when thinking in terms of everyday speeds, which are far slower than light.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
- find the total resistance;
- find the total current with Ohm's law;
- redraw the circuit as a series circuit;
- find the voltage differences across all the resistors in the series circuit;
- go back the original circuit and use the voltage differences to find the currents on each branch, regardless of the branch resistance.
Take a look, and see Doc V if there are any questions at all.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
To get the ball rolling, consider the following broad issues/problems. All of these will require contributions from a variety of scientific and technical areas of study...multidisciplinary tasks galore:
* Quality of air and water
* Fresh water supplies for much of the west and southwest
* Disposal of solid wastes (everyday garbage)
* Modernization and maintenance of national power grid
* New energy sources, better energy efficiency and conservation
* Climate change (both at an understanding level as well as preparing for consequences)
* Environmental engineering
* Improved electronic encryption algorithms as we digitize everything (medical, financial records, etc)
* Transportation infrastructure
* Telecommunications networks, both development and maintenance
* Continued improvement and progress in computing technologies
* Mass electronic data storage
* Medical treatments for the disease of your choice. This includes stem cell issues, genetic engineering, drug R&D, and so on.
* Military related technologies
* Improved search technologies for earth-crossing asteroids (something I have yet to hear policymakers talk about publicly, but there are literally many thousands of sizeable objects that cross earth's orbit we should try to identify and monitor)
* Food supplies and quality control
* Disposal of nuclear wastes, nuclear proliferation issues
* Nanotechnology in general
* Security technology of all types
* Implementation of educational strategies and structures based on brain research and learning theory to best prepare the next generation of workers
* Continued development of network theory, game theory, etc., and progress in our understanding of complex systems for physical and social applications
* Materials science and development
I encourage comments with additional major issues that are technical in nature and subject to progress via scientific avenues; this is not at all a complete list. What we cannot forget is that further inclusion of other areas of study are intimately connected with just about everything on the above list, such as ethics, state/national/international law, economics, political science, sociology, public policy, military concerns, all areas of engineering, business/industry, job creation, international relations, anthropology, and countless subfields that fall under these larger areas of specialization.
The quicker we as a society recognize and realize the complexity, multidisciplinarity, and difficulty level of finding both short-term and long-term solutions to problems found in any of these areas, the better off we will be. The next president will need to address all of these during the course of an administration, as will every other prominent political figure in every nation across the globe. We will not be able to ignore any of them, and these loom as multi-generational issues that need to be solved. This will require leaders who are able to connect with the masses and communicate the seriousness of the issues, as well as move his or her nation toward a mindset of long-term planning and policy, something we seem to not be very good at.
We need to find and create massive numbers of people who are trained in all of the sciences, mathematics, engineering and technology, and all the other fields mentioned above to remain competitive in a global marketplace, as well as the maintain and improve the quality of life for future generations. It is challenging work, but do we have any other choice but to address these challenges? Does our consumption-based and entertainment-driven society have the backbone and means to deal with these issues? Will we leave the world in better condition for our kids and grandkids than what we inherited?
Monday, November 2, 2009
Double-click on the picture to get the entire photo.
At some 13 BILLION LIGHT-YEARS,we have a new farthest object ever observed and photographed by astronomers. This object is the remnant of a gamma ray burst, relatively shortly after the Big Bang (about 600 million years after the creation of the universe). Gamma ray bursts rank as one of the most energetic events known in the universe, and the star that produced this one was part of the first generation of stars created in the universe. Truly remarkable!
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
An enormous chunk of modern technology we take for granted exists only because of their work. For example, much of the ETHS computer network backbone is fiber optics, and new lines put in globally to expand the Internet backbone is fiber optic, as well as phone lines that are put in the ground (yes, your voice is ultimately transmitted as light!). There are fiber optic computers being developed, and particle and nuclear physicists have used fiber optics in detectors for some period of time. The CCD is in every digital camera, cell phone, telescope, and numerous types of satellites. CCDs are able to take photons falling on them and convert it into electrical signals, which can then be used to digitize data. Because we see final products as 'black boxes,' most people do not understand how modern electronic devices and the Internet work...this prize and the publicity it generates will help educate people a bit more so they can hopefully better appreciate the role science plays in our lives.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The 'Smart' refers to control systems within the power grid, which is the vast comple network that distributes power to all cities, towns and buildings. There is a good deal of wasted energy in the grid, and scientists and engineers are being tasked with designing and building a new distribution system where computers and sensors will determine where energy is needed, where it can be reduced and saved, and what demand is doing in real-time. by being more efficient, less waste will take place, less additional energy needs to be pumped into the grid, and energy costs and greenhouse emissions will be reduced, or so it should be theoretically.
I wanted to mention this on the blog because of the fact that if you have interests in electronics, computer science, and electrical, mechanical, or civil engineering, then there will be many jobs opening up as this project continues to grow over the next five years. New standards for a smart grid were just published by the Dept. of Commerce, and money is beginning to flow into the system to make this work. Keep in mind that a HUGE challenge to make a new grid work, as well as most sectors of life and business continue to work, is cyber security. We will be needing an army of computer scientists to develop secure software and encryption algorithms to keep all aspects of our national and private computer networks safe from hackers and cyber terrorism, which is the second greatest threat I personally believe is out there (with the only exception being a nuclear armed terror organization).
Keep this in mind, because it will be a constant effort being done in your lifetime.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
In 3 Chem-Phys, we've introduced differentiation and integration, vector algebra, and constant versus non-constant acceleration, and the juniors are presently in their first chemistry unit.
In 4 Chem-Phys, we are starting with static electricity as we have introduced the concept of electric fields and forces. We will be doing point charges and then move into Gauss's law, and introduce electric potential.
Keep in mind that notes and assignment calendars are on the Moodle pages. Check out how to access my Moodle pages here.
The phun has begun!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Dear Dr. Vondracek:
Thank you for your comments about technology in education.
I share your views about the need to increase access to technology in our schools. Federal support for education is an investment in our children's future and in our nation's competitiveness. Although funding for education is primarily a state and local responsibility, federal programs provide critical assistance to help local school districts strengthen educational programs. Federal assistance for technology in education helps prepare our children for the increasing demands of an information age.
Today, technology is a critical component of a strong educational system. Students need a working knowledge of computer hardware and software, and they need to use technology as part of the broader learning process. The problem-solving skills and other strengths developed through coursework that utilizes up-to-date technology are a valuable preparation for most jobs. Moreover, the U. S. Department of Labor projects that new jobs requiring science, engineering and technical training will increase four times faster than the average national job growth rate. Therefore, adequate education technology is an enormous and pressing need.
As co-chair of the Senate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education Caucus, and as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to work to ensure that support for education - including science, technology, and math education - is a high priority, and I will keep your comments in mind as federal funding for technology in education is considered in the Senate.
Thank you again for your interest. I hope you will continue to stay in touch.
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator"
Notice the highlighted section, stating how technology related job growth is projected to increase 4 times faster than the rest of the job market. This means it is in your best interests to at least have some background with technology and science, just so you have the option of moving into a technical field if you so desire. It starts NOW, at ETHS!!
Monday, August 24, 2009
Our Universe: Continual EmergenceIn my last post I tried to offer some mix of examples of systems that involve emergence. Again, emergence refers to many-body systems of all types (physical, biological, social, economic, etc) where the rules/principles that govern the behavior of individual components of the system are different from the organizational rules/principles that govern the behavior of the collective system.
As others pointed out in comments, the field of complex systems and emergent behavior includes phase transitions and environmental concerns and influences as well. This discussion has got me thinking about the role complexity theory and the notion of emergent behavior will play in the next few decades. Being a relatively new area of study (at least new in the sense that large numbers of people are working on it...perhaps on order of 15-20 years), it is difficult to predict exactly where it will end up, but just from a physical science point of view consider the following progression of events and phenomena where new levels of organization, i.e. emergence, are reached:
- Big Bang, where energy and spacetime itself emerges from a singularity.
- Fundamental particles, the quarks, organize into baryons (such as protons and neutrons) and mesons, via strong nuclear force.
- Nuclei (isotopes of hydrogen, some helium) emerge from a sea of baryons and gluons.
- Simplest atoms emerge from sea of hydrogen and helium nuclei and electrons, via electromagnetic force.
- Gas molecules of hydrogen and helium emerge from sea of atoms.
- Gas clouds emerge from sea of gas atoms, via gravity.
- Protostars and stars emerge from gas clouds.
- Heavier elements (up to iron) emerge from thermonuclear processes inside star cores (nucleosynthesis).
- Clouds of heavier elements (up to uranium) emerge from first generation supernovae.
- Second generation stars, first generation planets/solar systems emerge from gas and heavy element clouds.
- Primitive atmospheres and terrestrial environments emerge on various planets.
- For earth, more complex molecules, including carbon-based molecules, emerge in the chemical mixtures of the atmosphere and oceans (this includes amino acids, which can be formed naturally when lightning occurs in the primitive atmosphere, as shown in experiments).
- Still more complicated molecules, including proteins and RNA, emerge, and from this mixture first set of single-celled life emerge.
- Multicellular systems emerge from sea of single-celled critters.
- Ultimately great variety of life emerges, including humans, from evolutionary processes.
- From this point, social organization occurs, language emerges, technology emerges, social networks emerge, economies emerge, and so on.
In each of these separate eras of the development of the universe and life as we know it, we are talking about a transition from simpler, smaller components that organize into larger entities whose behavior and properties are vastly different from the individual components that make it up. We are at the point where we know an awful lot of the physics that describes how particles, atoms, molecules, stars, galaxies, planets, geological processes, and solar systems behave individually. Chemists and biologists know an awful lot about individual reactions, molecules, organelles, cells, tissues, organs, and organisms. This is what science has worked on for the last few centuries. In other words, we know a lot about the basic rules and principles that govern individual components for each individual step of the evolution of the universe and life on earth.
However, what we don’t understand very well is how steps make the transition to the next step. We don’t understand the organizational principles or the rules that govern the phase transitions between steps, which means we don’t understand the emergence of complexity in our universe. This is where we are now and, in my opinion, such studies will dominate whole fields of physical science, biological science, mathematics, economics, social science, behavioral science, technology, and even philosophy, for decades to come. To those who have suggested the end of science is near, think again.