Saturday, October 30, 2010

Top 10 benefits of a college degree

The list below describes ten benefits of a college education. While the list is encouraging, I found it interesting that none of the ten benefits of college education had anything to do with gaining personal knowledge...

A college degree pays off financially and intangibly for the graduate – and for society at large, says a report from the College Board. Here are 10 top benefits:

10. Better-prepared kids
Parents with advanced degrees are three times more likely to read to their kids every day than parents who haven’t finished high school, and twice as likely to participate in other educational activities like visiting museums and libraries.
The payoff? Children of highly educated parents are three times more likely to start school already knowing their alphabet and how to count to 20.

9. Fewer social costs
High school graduates are three times more likely to live in poverty than college graduates, and eight times more likely to depend on public assistance programs
For every female high school student who goes on to attend college, society saves $48,600 over her lifetime. For every African-American male who goes on to finish college instead of dropping out of high school, society saves $294,000.

8. More tax revenue
Higher salaries for college means more money for the government, which matters to policymakers. “The typical college graduate pays, on average, 80 percent more in taxes each year than the typical high school graduate,” according to the College Board report. For those with advanced degrees, the tax benefits to the government are even better. Doctors and lawyers might grouse that they pay 3-1/2 times as much in taxes as high school graduates do. Then again, they earn three times as much.

7. More volunteering and voting
The share of people who donate their time to organizations and the number of hours that they spend in volunteer activities are higher among individuals with higher levels of education. Most volunteer for religious organizations (34 percent) or youth-related services (26 percent).
At every age group, the more educated someone is, the more likely she is to vote. It’s most dramatic among 18- to 24-year-olds, where college graduates are 2-1/2 times as likely to vote as those who haven’t finished high school.

6. Fewer smokers
Between 1998 and 2008, the smoking rate declined from 14 percent to 9 percent among college grads, while the rate for high school grads barely dropped, from 29 percent to 27 percent.
Of people with advanced degrees, 70 percent never smoked, only 3 percent choose to keep smoking, and the rest have quit or are trying to. Of people who didn’t finish high school, half have never smoked, a third have quit or are trying to, and 15 percent choose to maintain the habit.

5. More exercise, less fat
Those with more education are more likely to exercise than those with less education. College-educated adults are also less likely than others to be obese or have obese children. These results hold for all age groups.

4. Higher job satisfaction
In 2008, about 60 percent of people who had attended college – whether or not they’d completed a degree – reported that they were very satisfied with their jobs. Only 50 percent of high school graduates and 40 percent of high school dropouts could say the same. People with job satisfaction were three times as likely to say that they were very happy.

3. Better recession protection
College graduates’ employment rose 2 percent between the first quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2010, despite the great recession. Every group with lower education levels saw employment numbers decline. Those hardest hit were those who hadn’t finished high school. One in 5 for them has lost a job, compared with 1 in 100 for high school graduates and those with some college education.

2. More benefits, higher pensions
Only half of high school graduates have employer-provided health insurance or pension plans, but almost 70 percent of college graduates do. Also, while 93 percent of college grads participate in employer-matching pension plans if they're available, only 3 in 4 of those who didn’t complete high school do, meaning that 1 in 4 pass up essentially free money from their employer.

1. Increased earning potential
Everyone knows the price of a college degree, but fewer know the price of not getting one: $22K a year.
In 2008, median earnings of college graduates were $55,700, which was $21,900 more than the median earnings of high school graduates who hadn’t attended college.
See the list at: Top 10 benefits of a college degree

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Knowing physics can save lives

An engineer showed how knowing physics can save lives, in this case the life of a pickup truck driver who collapsed while driving.

The Seattle Times reports:
A manager of Boeing’s F22 fighter-jet program, Innes dodged the truck, then looked back to see that the driver was slumped over the wheel. He knew a busy intersection was just ahead, and he had to act fast. Without consulting the passengers in his minivan — “there was no time to take a vote” — Innes kicked into engineer mode.
“Basic physics: If I could get in front of him and let him hit me, the delta difference in speed would just be a few miles an hour, and we could slow down together,” Innes explained.
So he pulled in front of the pickup, allowed it to rear-end his minivan and brought both vehicles safely to a stop in the pull-off lane.
Read the full report here:

A Visual History of Halloween

This infograph presents an interesting timeline about the origins and traditions of Halloween (or better All-Hallows Even).

Misconceptions of science principles in everyday life (Humor)

Artist Christoph Niemann created a series of humorous illustrations to explain how the laws of physics apply to our everyday life.

Also, there are the humorous scientific misconceptions at Fake Science:

Over 1,200 new species discovered in the last ten years!

More than 1,200 new species of plants and vertebrates have been discovered in the Amazon over the past decade – a new species every three days – according to a new WWF report, Amazon Alive! The new species include 637 plants, 257 fish, 216 amphibians, 55 reptiles, 16 birds and 39 mammals, confirming that the Amazon is one of the most diverse places on Earth.

I find it amazing and inspiring that there are still so many plants and animals to discover. On the other hand, it is also disturbing, because most of these unknown species were found in the Amazon, an area endangered by human deforestation. During the last 50 years, humans have caused the destruction of at least 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest – an area twice the size of Spain.

Visit this blogpost to see their great collection of pictures of recently discovered animals.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Increase of soda can size in U.S. since 1950

Since the 1950s, the standard size of soda cans increased manyfold. In 1950, "King Size" was 12oz, but in 2010 it increased up to 40oz!

As sodas contain a lot of sugar, many U.S. schools are now removing soda vending machines from the school grounds (1). Pepsi pledged to remove all full-calorie sweetened drinks from schools in more than 200 countries by 2012 (2). Coca Cola and Dr Pepper followed (3).

However, this does not stop children from going to the next fast-food restaurant (or home) and get one of those 40oz soda cups...

(2) Pepsi Will Remove High-Calorie Sodas from Schools by 2012

One Way Heroes

Artist's conception of a craft for manned Mars mission (NASA)
Sending astronauts to space and bring them back is expensive. A possible solution? Send them only one way and leave them there.

NASA and the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are embarking on a "Hundred-Year Starship" program, which will bring space travelers to other planets and leave them there.

I am wondering, who would sign up for the job to become a "one-way hero"?

Full article in the Huffington Post and a discussion why we haven't sent people to Mars yet.

Visual representation of power-dynamics in Afghanistan make things clear for U.S. Generals

Information visualizations are supposed to make the most incomprehensible data crystal clear. But even the sharpest military minds were left baffled by this PowerPoint slide, a mind-boggling attempt to explain the situation in Afghanistan.

'When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war,' General Stanley McChrystal, the US and NATO force commander, remarked wryly when confronted by the sprawling spaghetti diagram in a briefing. []

The conclusion: Trying to include everything is laudable, but to gain useful information, you have to focus.

Is there such a thing as privacy on the internet?

UC Berkeley Program Aims to Help Advance Math Teachers' Careers

UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education Cal Teach program offers fellowships for math teachers to become leaders in the field. The five year programs consists of weekly mentoring sessions and a one-year sabbatical during which the fellows take math classes at UC Berkley and work as teacher supervisors for Cal Teach. Fellows also have the opportunity to work toward their National Board certification.

This project is aligned with the Pcast Committee's recommendations to improve U.S. education to create a corps of master teachers.

Article in the Daily Californian: Program Aims to Help Advance Science, Math Teachers' Careers

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson talk about Science

Two well known scientists, biologist Richards Dawkins and astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson talk about science.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Evolution of Geek

What does it mean to be a geek? Geek used to mean unfashionable or socially inept person. The word geek is derived from the Low German word "geck", meaning "crazy". The new meaning of geek is a person devoted to a particular interest. I am wondering: Doesn't this definition of geek make everybody a geek? Doesn't everybody have a special interest in something? Or, as Aristotle said: We are what we repeatedly do.

There are many different types of geeks. Here is a list of 56 different types of geeks (and counting).
56 Geeks by Scott Johnson
Flowtown created this great flowchart about the evolution of the geek.
Evolution of Geek (by Flowtown)
I am not sure using these geek hand signs will make you look any cooler. :)

Geek Hand Signs (by Joey DeVilla)

What is the difference between a geek, a nerd, a dork and a dweeb?
The difference between Geek, Nerd, Dork, and Dweeb
Another attempt to define geek:
What is a Geek

Here is a tribute to female geek and gamer girls (by the band Team Unicorn, with special appearances by a rapping Seth Green, Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff and Stan Lee).

Another classification of geeks (but classified under "nerds"):
Know your Geeks
As geek traits are becoming more mainstream, some people ask if "Geek is going extinct?" - Read discussion here.

Where do the terms "geek" and "nerd" come from? See here to learn about the origins of geek and nerd.

XKCD summarized the difference between geeks and nerds in his own way:
The difference between nerds and geeks

This infograph offers a different comparison between geeks and nerds.
Geeks vs Nerds

Funny geek hierarchy chart: Which geeks consider themselves less geeky than other geeks.
Geek vs Nerd
Blog "Slackpropagation" posted an interesting analysis about the distinction between "geek" and "nerd" based on twitter posts. Read more here (Slackpropagation blog).

What do different geeks think of one another?
Geek Hierarchy Chart

Find of a short illustrated history of nerd here and a short history of the evolution of on-screen nerds here.

Geek flowchart:
Geek Flowchart

Geek Maslow Pyramid of Needs:
Geek Maslow Pyramid of Needs
Reversed geek bullying:
Payback time for Geeko Sapiens
Diagram of Geek Culture:
Diagram of Geek Culture
The list below is a somewhat random collection of geek and nerd types (and by no means complete). [Click to Enlarge]
Order of Geeks and Nerds

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Infograph about the payroll difference between men and women

The good news: More women make equal or money than their male partners (22% in 2010 than 4% in 1970). The bad news: Overall, women still get paid 20% less than men - for doing the same jobs! [Click on the picture to see the full infograph.]

Infograph about Facebook Game Statistics

50% of all Facebook users play games on Facebook, 69% of them are female. All together, Facebook gamers spent 927 MILLION hours per month playing online games in Facebook! Mind-boggling!!
Click on the picture to see the whole infograph.

Internet about to hit 2 billion users -

According to a report out Tuesday, there will be 2 billion Web dwellers by the end of this year. Much of the big number can be attributed to internet growth in developing countries. However, only about 8 percent of the world will have broadband access this year. Internet about to hit 2 billion users -

Internet usage, especially of new tools, can be categorized into four groups:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Scientists discover new species in one of world’s deepest ocean trenches

I find it always fascinating that there are still animals on the planet that have not yet been discovered!
Scientists revealed a new species of snailfish living at 7000m, never before caught or captured on camera.

Scientists discover new species in one of world’s deepest ocean trenches

NBC reality-show about fixing school buildings "School Pride"

NBC's new reality-show "School Pride" shows how students, teachers, and community volunteers repair a run-down school in ten days. I think the most important aspect of the show is that the students take ownership in their own school by repainting and repairing their own classroom, and not only a team of specialists. The corniness of the show aside, it is inspiring to see what can be achieved in a short amount of time once somebody takes charge (and attracts many privater companies as sponsors!).

NBC Show "School Pride" on Hulu

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How to fix U.S. schools - an essay by Richard Rothstein

Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, wrote an interesting response to the manifesto by Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City public school system, and Michelle Rhee, who resigned October 13 as Washington, D.C. chancellor, published in the Washington Post claiming that the main problem of U.S. schools was the difficulty of removing incompetent teachers (a claim in line with the recent movie "Waiting for Superman").

Rothstein's essay points out that the situation is much more complex than that and scapegoating teachers cannot be used as the single solution. Rothstein critiques the Klein-Rhee approach, and calls for a different agenda, which includes improving teacher quality but also many other equally, if not more important school and out of school initiatives. Among these are improving school leadership, curriculum, and teacher collaboration, and taking other initiatives to improve children's ability to succeed by coming to school in better health and with more adequate experiences in early childhood and in out-of-school time. The brief also warns that school leaders cannot ignore the disastrous consequences of the current economic crisis for their ability to nurture and educate our youth.

Read Rothstein's essay here

Visual Aid for the Deep Mine Rescue in Chile

This website presents a visual representation of the depth of the escape shaft drilled to rescue the trapped miners in Chile earlier this week. The scale is 1 pixel per inch (39 pixels per meter).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stem cell therapy trial begins in patients with spine injuries

The first of several spine injury patients is undergoing treatment, which has helped rodents regain the ability to walk and run. Doctors said that even if the therapy ultimately did not permit people to walk and run again, it might greatly improve their quality of life by giving them more control over bowel, bladder and sexual functions.

Stem cell therapy trial begins in patients with spine injuries -

Flowchart of the characteristics of female movie characters

Great flowchart by Shana Mlavski and Carlos A. Hann.

Shogi Computer beats human master

A shogi (also called Japanese chess) computer program, created by a team from the University of Tokyo, beat the female shogi master Ichiyo Shimizu. While the shogi algorithm still has to repeat its playing strength, it is impressive, as shogi as more complex than western chess. 

One challenge is still open for computer scientists: Creating an algorithm that can beat a human in a game of Go.

USA Science & Engineering Festival

USA Science & Engineering Festival

Is cancer caused by modern day lifestyle?

Ramses II
A New Scientist article discusses a publication that claims to have found no sign of cancer in Egyptian mummies. The authors concluded that cancer must therefore be caused by modern day carcinogens that were not present in ancient Egypt. The New Scientist review criticizes this conclusion by pointing out that none of the mummified people died older than fifty years old, and most cancers occur in people over fifty. The study and the review is an interesting example for what you can conclude from data and what not.

Briefing: Cancer is not a disease of the modern world - health - 14 October 2010 - New Scientist

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What do you call students' ideas prior to instruction?

Jean Piaget and many constructivist researchers after him showed that students do not enter the classroom as "blank slates" but with a rich set of ideas.

The open question is what to call these ideas that students hold prior to formal instruction. To complicate the matter, education researchers use a wide range of terms, with different connotations.

Some researchers consider students' existing ideas as plain wrong and want to replace them with normative ideas. These researchers use negative terms like "misconceptions" and "naive theories".

Other researchers acknowledge students' ideas and believe that students can hold multiple ideas of varying normativity at the same time. Instruction aims to help students distinguish normative from non-normative ideas so that students can use normative ideas more often and in multiple contexts. These researchers use neutral terms like "alternative idea", "alternative conceptions" or "prior knowledge".

Here is a list of alternative terms from various research papers (and the list is still growing):

-Misconception (Fisher, 1983), 
-Prior knowledge
-False beliefs
-Alternative conceptions
-Alternative frameworks (Driver & Easley, 1978), 
-Alternative ideas (Linn, 2008)
-Alternative views
-Intuitive belief (McKloskey, 1983)
-Intuitive theories
-Erroneous concepts
-Naive theories
-Naive beliefs (Caramazza, McCloskey, & Green, 1981)
-Non-normative ideas
-Preconception (Anderson & Smith, 1983)

To follow Asimov's rules of robotics, one must break them.

A robotics research team from Slovenia wants to establish how robots should move when around humans in order not to hurt them. The first step in this study was having an industrial robot arm hurt humans (yes, they got human subject permission for that). The study aims to establish how fast robots can approach humans without causing them pain.

Robot arm punches human to obey Asimov's rules - tech - 13 October 2010 - New Scientist

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why Scientists Should Read Science Fiction

Hannah Waters wrote an interesting essay about why scientist should read science fiction. Science fiction authors often image future scientific developments. Looking at science fiction from the past provides historic insight into earlier visions. Science fiction is also a source of "scientific knowledge" for many non-scientists - so scientists should be aware of the ideas presented in those media.

Why Scientists Should Read Science Fiction | Culturing Science – biology as relevant to us earthly beings

Presidential committee suggests seven ways to improve U.S. STEM education

The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) just released their report about how to improve pre-college STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education in the U.S.

The PCAST committee suggests seven ways to improve U.S. STEM education:








Find the full PCAST report here

Science competitions may help engage students in STEM

The U.S. education system does not attract enough students to follow careers in science, math, and engineering (see pipeline illustration).

A new initiative in North Carolina tries to make science more attractive through virtual statewide science and mathematics competitions. The best high school STEM-related projects from North Carolina will compete in the Beijing Youth Science Creation Challenge (BYSCC) in China.

“I’ve found that science and the students doing science (in other countries) are celebrated, and we need to do that too,” Nolan said. “The organizers of BYSCC invited international science teams to help their students celebrate science. It puts it in a global context.”

Science competitions may help engage students in STEM :: STEM Education at Local Tech Wire

Plant has record size DNA

Paris japonica
The plant Paris japonica has a genome 50 times longer than that of humans, making it the longest genome ever recorded (Scientific American).

New record size for a genome goes to rare plant

Chapman University to open new evolution center

Chapman University opened a new evolution education and research center. About 50% of the U.S. population reject the idea of evolution, and even among those who accept it, many people have misconceptions about evolution.

As evolution is central to understanding biological processes, more research centers are need.

Chapman to open new evolution center | evolution, center, education - News - The Orange County Register

Also see the National Center for Science Education and Understanding Evolution (from UC Berkeley).

Infograph: The true size of Africa

Most people struggle to accurately describe the size of Africa. This infograph illustrates how Africa compares to different countries.

Too Much TV Harms Kids Psychologically (Discovery News)

A new study found that children who spend two hours or more a day watching TV or playing on a computer are more likely to have psychology difficulties.

The negative impact of screen time was not remedied by increasing a child's physical activity levels.

New research explores connections between poverty, education, and prisons.

The U.S. currently imprisons more than 2 million people - significantly more than any other country in the world (relative to their population).

The state of California spends more money on prisons than the education system!

A new article by the Slate magazine explores the connections between poverty, school-dropouts, and prisons.

New research shows precisely how the prison-to-poverty cycle does its damage. - By Sasha Abramsky - Slate Magazine