Category Archives: Off-Topic

How A War Hero Launched A War On Bad Math Instruction

He retired from the military in 1970, and accepted a part-time night job teaching algebra at Oscar Rose Junior College near Norman, Oklahoma, in 1971. Having taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy and as a military flight instructor, Saxon said he gave his first class a “beautiful explanation” on how to solve a problem. Twenty minutes later, the students couldn’t work a similar problem. They couldn’t remember the steps. After several efforts to teach more beautiful explanations, he coined one of his later mantras: “Beautiful explanations do not lead to understanding.”

He was stunned by his students’ lack of basic math skills. He knew they needed solid knowledge of algebra to advance to higher learning in college courses. Back in his office, he threw the textbook against the wall. He had to figure out how to help his students.

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Finally, one day a young woman in his class asked if he would create a paper that would help her understand the procedures step-by-step so she could use those when doing her homework. Other students wanted the worksheets. He found they needed to practice the procedures over a period of days, then repeat that practice several days later and then several days later again. They also needed to learn parts of a concept in incremental steps over several days or even weeks instead of trying to swallow it like a “hunk”—the way chapter books present it.

In the process of making worksheets with his “incremental learning” and “continuous review,” he realized he had created two manuscripts the college print shop could collate. The paperback books were titled “Incremental Algebra” and “Intermediate Algebra” and sold for $7.65.

How A War Hero Launched A War On Bad Math Instruction

America’s pungent corpse flowers are all mysteriously blooming at once – ScienceAlert

Botanists across the US are trying to figure out why so many titan arums – better known as corpse flowers – are blooming simultaneously around the country this year.

This is super weird, because there have only been 157 recorded blooms ever between 1889 and 2008. But this year in the US alone, at least seven flowers have bloomed.

America’s pungent corpse flowers are all mysteriously blooming at once – ScienceAlert

The Truth About Angry Birds: The Movie

Plato’s student Aristotle stated: “Tolerance is the last virtue of a dying society.”‘

“… and then I got it, and had to bow before a spectacularly confident stroke of movie-making genius.”

One of the oldest myths of mankind is that during a time of penultimate crisis, ancient heroes will return to the land in order to rescue society from its own blind and self-destructive foolishness.

For the first 15 or 20 minutes of The Angry Birds Movie, I felt bored, frustrated and alienated – and then I got it, and had to bow before a spectacularly confident stroke of movie-making genius.

What is the Truth About Angry Birds: The Movie?

The Truth About Angry Birds: The Movie

New Evidence Could Overthrow the Standard View of Quantum Mechanics | WIRED

But there’s another view—one that’s been around for almost a century—in which particles really do have precise positions at all times. This alternative view, known as pilot-wave theory or Bohmian mechanics, never became as popular as the Copenhagen view, in part because Bohmian mechanics implies that the world must be strange in other ways. In particular, a 1992 study claimed to crystalize certain bizarre consequences of Bohmian mechanics and in doing so deal it a fatal conceptual blow. The authors of that paper concluded that a particle following the laws of Bohmian mechanics would end up taking a trajectory that was so unphysical—even by the warped standards of quantum theory—that they described it as “surreal.”

Nearly a quarter-century later, a group of scientists has carried out an experiment in a Toronto laboratory that aims to test this idea. And if their results, first reported earlier this year, hold up to scrutiny, the Bohmian view of quantum mechanics—less fuzzy but in some ways more strange than the traditional view—may be poised for a comeback.

New Evidence Could Overthrow the Standard View of Quantum Mechanics | WIRED

This is an example showing how the science is never settled. We’ll have to wait and see how this turns out.

What if the existing view followers (Copenhageners) called the Bohmians fascists and racists? What if the Copenhageners lied about their results in order to maintain their model of the universe? What if science did not focus on truth? Wouldn’t we as a society be in serious trouble. Yet, this is exactly what happens once we step away from the hard sciences, engineering and math. When truth is fuzzy it gets manipulated.

This unusual test reveals how smart you are – The Washington Post

Last summer, a couple of researchers ran a funny experiment about honesty. They went to an Israeli shopping mall and recruited people, one-by-one, into a private booth. Alone inside the booth, each subject rolled a six-sided die. Then they stepped out and reported the number that came up.

There was an incentive to lie. The higher the number, the more money people received. If they rolled a one, they got a bonus of about $2.50. If they rolled a two, they got a bonus of $5, and so on. If they rolled a six, the bonus was about $15. (Everyone also received $5 just for participating.)

This unusual test reveals how smart you are – The Washington Post

Read the article before you read my comment.

You roll the dice, report your number and get paid according to your number. Here is my thinking:

  1. I am not going to lie over something stupid.
  2. The amount of money paid is not enough to care.
  3. If they paid me so much money that I cared then I would suspect that something is wrong.
  4. I always pass up deals in real life if I have not already studied the scenario.

Meet The Amazing Women Who Launched America’s First Rockets | Popular Science

At the end of May 1977, Sylvia and her date sat in a movie theater watching the blockbuster Star Wars. Sylvia was tired, and her mind kept drifting back to a computer program that wasn’t working properly. It was hard to let go of the code and relax; she went over the broken commands again and again. Suddenly a view of the stars filled the screen. It was the splendor of outer space, as imagined by George Lucas, and Sylvia was entranced. She giggled at R2-D2, amused at the difference between robots in movies and those in the lab, and reveled in the quirky characters in the bar scene. Along with everyone else in the theater, she became lost in the story. Later, as they left the dark movie theater for the bright light of day, she felt energized. It was as if she had a secret, shared only by those at JPL. She was about to see the real outer space, a view that needed no special effects from Hollywood.

On August 20, 1977, Voyager 2 sat atop a powerful Titan-Centaur rocket at the launchpad at Cape Canaveral. It was early morning, and those at JPL were full of nervous energy. The women knew this was their one shot at the Grand Tour. The planets wouldn’t align like this again for another three lifetimes.

Meet The Amazing Women Who Launched America’s First Rockets | Popular Science

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars

In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn’t turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible.

For the first time, Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the stories of these women–known as “human computers”–who broke the boundaries of both gender and science. Based on extensive research and interviews with all the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science: both where we’ve been, and the far reaches of space to which we’re heading.

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars: Nathalia Holt: 9780316338929: Amazon.com: Books

Quantum Moves

Play Quantum Moves and contribute to cutting-edge physics research. Your task is to find clever ways of manipulating and moving atoms. By playing, you help physicists in the epic task of building a real quantum computer. This is your chance to push the boundaries of science!

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Physicists are building a quantum computer by studying how people play this odd puzzle game | Digital Trends

What do physicists do when they can’t solve a bunch of complicated problems in quantum mechanics? They give the task to gamers.

Danish physicists and researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark have developed a new video game called Quantum Moves that challenges gamers to race against the clock and solve seemingly simple puzzles. The catch is the game behaves by the strange principles of quantum physics. It may seem easy to balance and carry a mysterious liquid across a 2D map. But this liquid doesn’t respond to movement like your average cup of water. It’s like a petulant and unpredictably viscous child. Move the cursor too quickly and the liquid sloshes out in incredible waves. Move the cursor too slowly and you’re beat by the clock.

Physicists are building a quantum computer by studying how people play this odd puzzle game | Digital Trends

Privacy.com is a VPN for credit cards | The Verge

In 2016, it’s remarkably hard to buy something anonymously. Bitcoin would be the easiest way, but most places don’t accept it. Even walking into a store and paying cash, there’s a decent chance you’ll be asked for your name and zip code. Paying online is even harder. Use a credit card or a traditional payment service and the odds are your purchase will end up in an anonymized database, used to target you the next time advertisers want to find someone who’s bought a burrito, a pair of jeans, or a lamp in the last month.

Launching today, a new project called Privacy.com wants to change that. Modeled off password managers, Privacy.com works as the commerce equivalent of a VPN, sitting between you and the larger payment system. When it comes time to pay, Privacy.com drops in a one-time credit card number with no connection to you personally. The charges are still passed along as usual, but as far as the store is concerned, the money’s coming from Privacy.com. Like PayPal, it also means you can pay through a debit account instead of a credit card, something that would normally make you far more exposed to fraud.

Privacy.com is a VPN for credit cards | The Verge

‘The Black Tapes,’ ‘Lore,’ and the Rise of the Horror Podcast – The Atlantic

… “She called me in, shaking her head, and told me she got some calls from parents about how their kids couldn’t sleep alone in their rooms that weekend,” Bae says. During an annual Halloween tradition called the Hour of Horror, Bae told a class of ninth graders the tale of a toilet with a dark history: If a brave soul ventured to the third-floor restroom and entered the middle of three stalls at exactly 3 p.m., the lights would flicker as “the shadow of a girl on a noose would swing over the stall.” The girl, a victim of bullying, had taken her own life.

Unfortunately, Bae wasn’t able to finish the story. “At the end of every Hour of Horror, I’d say, ‘And there’s one more thing you should know: nothing I said today … is true,’” he says. “But for some reason, the bell rang during one of my answers, and the kids rushed out of the room to start their weekend. With a dawning sense of horror, it struck me: I forgot to tell them it was all made up.” His principal dismissed Bae with “a stern warning to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” but he apparently didn’t take those words to heart. His friend, the indie filmmaker Terry Miles, enticed Bae into the world of podcasting, and the pair now channel tales of the supernatural to 200,000 listeners a month with The Black Tapes. The podcast follows an affable journalist named Alex Reagan as she explores a series of terrifying cases—involving séances, demonic possessions, or apparitions—that have no apparent scientific or rational explanation.

‘The Black Tapes,’ ‘Lore,’ and the Rise of the Horror Podcast – The Atlantic

Not exactly on topic for this website, but the story was too rich to pass up.

Disney’s Animated Film ‘Zootopia’ is a U.S. Propaganda Tool, Chinese Professor Says – China Real Time Report – WSJ

The military-backed People’s Liberation Army Daily on Wednesday ran a commentary titled, “How can a sheep be turned into a ‘crazy’ scapegoat?” The author, a professor at a PLA-backed academy in the eastern city of Nanjing, questioned the plot of Disney’s animated animal film “Zootopia” (known as “Crazy Animal City” in Chinese), which features a sheep as the story’s main antagonist.

The animated film revolves around a rabbit police officer working to track down some disappeared predators with the help of a red fox. In the end — spoiler alert — the two discover that the sheep, who worked as assistant mayor of Zootopia, is the mastermind of the case.

Disney’s Animated Film ‘Zootopia’ is a U.S. Propaganda Tool, Chinese Professor Says – China Real Time Report – WSJ