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February 2004
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April 2004

RouteMap Mars - as shown to V3

Some of my students wanted a reference, so this is for V3 Physics...

The Road to 'Bonneville'

This false-color panoramic camera composite traverse map depicts the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's journey since landing at Gusev Crater, Mars. It was generated from three of the camera's different wavelength filters (750 nanometers, 530 nanometers and 480 nanometers: roughly Red, Green and Blue). This map was created on the 65th martian day, or sol, of Spirit's mission, after Spirit had traveled 328 meters (1076 feet) from its lander to the rim of the crater dubbed "Bonneville." From this high point, Spirit was able to capture with its panoramic camera the entire rover traverse. The map points out major stops that Spirit made along the way, including features nicknamed "Adirondack;" "Stone Council;" "Laguna Hollow;" and "Humphrey." Also highlighted is the landscape feature informally named "Grissom Hill" and Spirit's landing site, the Columbia Memorial Station.

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Curiouser and Curiouser...

New Scientist

The most distant object ever seen in the Solar System appears to be even stranger than first suggested, after astronomers revealed full details of the discovery.

Nicknamed Sedna, for an Inuit goddess of the sea, the object lies three times as far from the Sun as Pluto and appears to be about three-quarters Pluto's size.

But orbital observations suggest it strays much further - more than 10 times its current distance - on an elliptical orbit that takes more than 10,500 years to complete.

That extreme distance makes Sedna's discoverers believe it may be the first ever sighting of an object orbiting in the remote Oort Cloud. This is a theoretical collection of icy bodies that surrounds the Solar System in a spherical shell from an unknown distance beyond Pluto to as far as several thousand times Pluto's distance from the Sun.

Continue reading "Curiouser and Curiouser..." »

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Games for Learning

Stephen Downes, March 15,

James Paul Gee , author of "What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy", treated those of us at the RIMA ICEM conference in Quebec City today to a lucid and convincing argument illustrating how today's computer games embody better learning than most schools.

Video games, he noted, are long, complex and hard - and yet people spent many hours playing them, involving themselves in complex learning, and even pay for the privilege. The task accomplished by game designers, he observed wryly, "would be like charging fifty dollars to learn algebra.

One might think that the way to make games easier to learn would be to make them simpler, but game designers have learned that while games need to be easy to learn, gamers demand that the games themselves be difficult. So through a process of evolution, designers have incorporated strong pedagogy into games, which can be discovered through a process of reverse engineering.

Human minds and video games, said Gee, work in much the same way. While at one time we thought that the human mind functions like a big inference engine, manipulating symbols and rules, the prevailing view today is that humans do not follow rules. Rather, what they do is act on experiences, essentially constructing simulations in their mind.

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Beware the Ides of March

Julius Caesar's bloody assassination on March 15, 44 B.C., forever marked March 15, or the Ides of March, as a day of infamy.

For ancient Romans living before that event, however, an ides was merely one of several common calendar terms used to mark monthly lunar events. The ides simply marked the appearance of the full moon.

During the time of ancient Rome, each month began with the calends, from the Latin term meaning "proclaim" or "call." The term referred to the announcement of the first sighting of the new moon and was also associated with the day interest was due.

Following the calends came the nones, which marked the first quarter moon. Its meaning ("nine") was derived from the term for the Roman nine-day week, nundinae. One nundinae after the nones came the ides. The term, which means "to divide," designated the occurrence of the full moon.

The ancient Roman calendar fixed the calends on the 1st, the nones on the 5th or the 7th, and the ides on 13th or the 15th. The months of March, May, July, and October, the longest months at 31 days, held the nones on the 7th and the ides on the 15th. For all other months the nones fell on the 5th and the ides on the 13th.

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Laptops or Learning Devices

BBC Education

Essex is the latest education authority to urge parents to make tax-deductible contributions to a charity so schoolchildren can have laptops.

Its e-learning project aims to provide a "digital learning device" to all 200,000 of its school pupils by 2007.

Nottingham City education authority is also refocusing its efforts on a new project and hoped to agree a deal later this week.

This involves an intelligent, web-based way of delivering learning materials to students and tracking their progress.

Meanwhile Oxfordshire County Council have put out a tender for a Content Management System to allow sharing of teaching resources between schools.

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Hair today

BBC Health

Scientists believe they may have found a new way to reverse baldness...

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have identified stem cells or master cells in the hair follicles of mice. They found that these cells grow into hair follicles and produce hair when transplanted into skin. Writing in Nature Biotechnology, they said the discovery could lead to new treatments for humans.

Whadya mean "could lead to new treatments"... we are talking a seriously large market out there

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DNA detection made easy


This is pretty significant...

Physicists in France have shown that it is possible to detect DNA with a purely electronic technique. Ulrich Bockelmann and colleagues at the Ecole Normale Suprieure in Paris measured the intrinsic charge of DNA molecules with an array of silicon transistors, which allowed them to avoid the markers and labels used in conventional detection techniques. The team has already used its device to detect and identify a common genetic mutation in human DNA, and hopes to exploit the approach in lab-on-a-chip applications (F Pouthas et al. 2004 Appl. Phys. Lett. 84 1594).
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Nota Bene, Self-Organization, 20 Jun 2003

I stumbled over this article at a pre-incarnation of The Three-Toed Sloth.

Something is self-organizing if, left to itself, it tends to become more organized.

This is an unusual, indeed quite counter-intuitive property: we expect that, left to themselves, things get messy, and that when we encounter a very high degree of order, or an increase in order, something, someone, or at least some peculiar thing, is responsible. This is the heart of the Argument from Design...

But we now know of many instances where this expectation is simply wrong, of things which can start in a highly random state and, without being shaped from the outside, become more and more organized. Thus self-organization is one of the most interesting concepts in modern science...

And then, from the same author, this review of The Self-Made Tapestry by Philip Ball.

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