Archive for the 'On the Web' Category

Focus on the Family weighing in

Monday, November 26th, 2007

An online arm of Focus on the Family, CitizenLink, is advising readers to contact the Florida Department of Education to demand the inclusion of intelligent design alongside evolution in the new draft of the state science standards. Fortunately, their brief is not too detailed or accurate. Rather than have their audience contact the actual Board of Education or visit the science standards website, they just have an e-mail link to someone in the Bureau of Instruction and Innovation. Nice.

Alliance for Science essay contest

Monday, November 26th, 2007

The Alliance for Science is hosting its second annual National High School Essay Contest. Interested students can submit essays of up to 1,000 words on one of two topics — Climate and Evolution, or Agriculture and Evolution. Submission deadline is Feb. 29, 2008.

Guaranteed Cash Prizes! 1st Place $300.00, 2nd Place $200, 3rd Place $150, and 4th Place $100. Additional rewards for sponsoring teachers: 1st Place $150, 2nd Place $100.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

If you’re killing time until the Turkey is done, try your hand at this turkey quiz. I scored 6 out of 10.

Newspaper blog takes notice

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

The Lakeland Ledger has been filling their pages with news about the Polk County School Board’s evolution heartburn quite a bit lately. The newspaper also has a blog, which saw fit to post about Wesley Elsberry’s recent open letter to the school board.

The newspaper’s letters to the editor section has also been featuring dueling letters on the issue. My personal favorite is the following:

Mr. Harv Buckner recently wrote about his concern that the teaching of evolution in the schools would be in stark contrast to the religion he taught at home. He makes the erroneous assumption that the teaching of evolution would violate his belief in a supreme deity, when, in fact, the theory of evolution opens the door to a greater understanding of the ongoing creative process at work in our universe, more awe inspiring than the limited understanding of God that he endorses.

Mr. Buckner makes several assumptions that create his dilemma: First, he assumes that he possesses the final word on the truth of religious understanding. He also has a strong bias against science, as if one cannot have religious beliefs and honor the work of science at the same time.

In fact, the conservative brand of religion he claims is often anti-science, and bases its belief on distorted interpretations of scripture, confusing mythology with history, and the literal interpretation of scripture as the final word of God.

The sad truth about Mr. Buckner’s belief system is that he has apparently closed his mind to the idea that he may be wrong in his religious perceptions, and in the process is losing out on a greater understanding of creation and the marvel of the creative power in and through it all.

THE REV. ROBERT E. WILLOUGHBY

Thank you, reverend!

Take the science FCAT

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Have you taken the science FCAT yet? You can take the eighth grade exam posted by the Fl Dept. of Education to get a feel for what it’s like. I took the 45-question test and only stumbled over one answer because I had forgotten some things concerning potential and kinetic energy. Hey, it’s been two decades since the eighth grade for me; cut me some slack.

There were only two questions that required doing math. There were four questions requiring writing. The rest were multiple choice. It seemed to me that many questions practically had the answer in the question itself, but I freely admit that I’m not a teacher or an eighth grader. There was a lot of reasoning required, though, and I like how several questions addressed the very nature of science itself.

In the answer key, the percentage of students who selected the various multiple-choice answers is given. Question 5 surprised me, as it seems students didn’t know the difference between a galaxy and a constellation. A lever in question 7 really stumped students, which is disappointing. Somehow, students knew more about muscle cells (question 8 ), which I had to actually stop and think about, than they did simple machines.

Question 27 required a written answer and was about how an experiment should be done. Unfortunately, a full 50 percent of the students completely missed it. Also of note were the two questions requiring calculating, questions 33 and 34. Students bombed them with only 34 and 23 percent, respectively, getting them right.

I wonder why so many students thought that gene replication happens in the cell membrane (question 41).

Take the test and let us know how you did. Is this test a good way to assess eighth graders’ science knowledge or not?

Crying Wolf

Monday, October 29th, 2007

Sorry for the cheesy title. The Panda’s Thumb blog gives FCS president Joe Wolf a pat on the back for his recent quotes in local newspapers about the science standards and evolution. On the other hand, Joe’s quotes attracted attention from the Discovery Institute’s own Robert Crowther. Not to worry, though; Crowther’s tirade is nothing but hot air, as ably shown by The Panda’s Thumb’s PvM.

Everything I needed to know about physics I learned from Hollywood

Monday, August 27th, 2007

No, not really. But that does seem to be the case for many people. Of course, there are plenty of areas where audiences can draw a clear line between entertainment and reality. Superman shooting heat rays from his eyes? I think everyone would agree that is fantasy.

But there is a subtle level right below the surface that people swallow without thinking, and then go through life accepting as fuzzy fact. The speeding bus did clear the gaping chasm, didn’t it? That’s possible, right? Even that might not be a good example for what I’m talking about. This newspaper article describes a scene from a Spiderman movie that better illustrates the point. The audience probably isn’t even remotely thinking about how the bad guy is holding everything, but that right there is the point. It doesn’t strike anyone as odd. Thus Costas Efthimiou’s class at the University of Central Florida about movie physics. I’m not sure about the point in the newspaper story concerning people having a “fear” of science, but I do agree that movies featuring bad science do contribute to the dumbing down of the public.

Apparently, Efthimiou has even tangled with vampires. Brave, isn’t he? I’m not sure if he has anything to do with this movie physics website, but he has written papers about his courses here and here. I love the idea and wish I had an opportunity to sit in on one of his classes.

And while we’re on the subject, here’s a writeup about movie monster biology.

Google Sky

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Google Earth now includes a feature called Google Sky. This looks like a cool tool to play with and learn from!